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The National Archives Labs

An update to person search

In today’s blog entry, I would like to discuss the new enhancements to our person search functionality.

We are continuing to improve and refine this service because the most common search our users carry out is for names of people. We want this search function to be as easy to use, but also as comprehensive, as possible.

The newly enhanced search tool allows you to look for names both in our catalogues and also in the census returns and other records which are hosted by some of our external partners. We work with these partners to digitise some of our most popular records, with millions of records now available online. Among the external websites you will be able to search are:

1841 to 1891 census records

First World War Army service and  pension Records

Incoming passenger lists (1878 to 1960), alien arrivals (1826 to 1869) and alien entry books (1794 to 1921)

1911 census

Royal Hospital Chelsea pension records (1760 to 1913)

Outgoing passenger lists (1890 to 1960)

Non-parochial and overseas birth, marriage and death records (1567 to 1969)

1901 census

Searching the partner sites is free but there is usually a fee for downloading images.

Until this service was launched, you may have had to carry out separate searches on these external partner websites. We hope that this unified person search tool will enable you to explore a wider range of records through our website than was possible before. Let us know what you think.

Director of Technology and Chief Information Officer – David Thomas

As a senior archivist and records specialist at The National Archives, David’s career has focused on developing access to archives and information in both government and the archive sector.

David is responsible for information technology services at The National Archives, and is leading on the major cross-government project to develop a shared service for preserving digital records.

Comments (5)

  • anne s

    Thank you, the effort is terrific but you’re barking up the wrong tree – I don’t need to see my family history ancestor’s names in other sites (Ancestry, Find my past etc) I scan those ad nauseum! What is terrific about your Name Search is pulling together in an easier way, the search for info (including where the name isn’t the primary one in doc. name) in Nat Archives – this is great, but please keep doing this rather than disappearing into the vast swamp of all the others – or if you do PLEASE don’t integrate the findings if they stay separate as at present I can ignore that dross and stay with finding your gems.

    Thank you and much appreciate this work,


  • Peter T

    Hi, have to say I agree with Anne S. Whilst the development of the search facilities is much appreciated integrating with Ancestry results is not what I need. The commercial sites provide varying levels in quality of search and their developments in online family tree based search with hints has been a huge step forward.

    What is unique about TNA is the ability to search on a name for results that don’t include census results. It is the nuggets in records not available elsewhere that is the value to family historians.

    Ancestry et al have to keep developing family tree/census search, look at their new iPad app, as it is increasingly their main point of competition. I don’t think TNA should get mixed up in that. Instead please continue to focus on making the huge archive you’ve got beyond the census returns available. The digitisation of WO97 is a magnificent example. WO119, 121 etc next please.

  • Joan Borrowscale

    Yes, I agree with Peter and Anne – We need something new to look at – especially older documents -e.g. Manorial – I need to know what you have on my Borrowscale/Borranskell family 16th/17thc
    I have much on them, but there must be more to find.

  • Rachel Gwillim

    I agree with previous comments. Please concentrate on making available the data that no-one else has. There are many researchers like me living overseas, etc, who have no hope of spending much (if any) time in the National Archives. You have a treasure house of information that many of us would love to access. Please don’t become the same as others. I still miss your excellent magazine, which drew on far deeper resources and didn’t continually re-hash ‘advice to beginners’ to entice new researchers.

  • Denise Hobbs

    I agree with the previous comments. I search the genealogical search companies for the census entries. However, I struggle with the parish and other “official” records. These make up the majority of my research so I should appreciate help there.

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