Visit an archive

Now your research has progressed beyond the first steps, you will need to visit the relevant archive to consult the records you need.

If you live a long way from the archive, you could hire someone locally to do the research for you. However, visiting in person can be both exciting and rewarding. Archives tend to be user-friendly places, perfectly used to first-time researchers and geared up towards family historians. You are likely to meet other genealogists, and can ask the advice of staff who are familiar with the records and may have further suggestions to boost your research.


Plan ahead


Contact the archive before you visit to check that it holds the material that you want and to book a seat in the reading room or on a microfilm reader. Popular documents are often only available on microfilm in order to protect the precious originals from wear and tear. The archivist will be able to advise on whether you will need a microfilm reader to view the documents you want and how to use it when you get there.

Remember to leave yourself plenty of time when you go to an archive, or be prepared to return for a second or third visit. Research can be a slow process, and it is important to make meticulous notes of the documents that you have searched (even if you found nothing), and where each piece of new information came from.

Make sure you are familiar with the rules and regulations before your visit. For example, pencils only may be used and there may be a small fee for the use of laptops or digital cameras. Sometimes you will need to bring proof of identity to apply for a readers’ ticket. Check the archive’s website for a list of regulations.

It's a good idea to bring food and drink with you (although it’s not allowed in the reading room itself, of course) because you can waste a lot of time searching for somewhere to buy your lunch.

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