Atlantic Crossings

National Records at the PRO

by Phil Westwood

This article will look at National Records kept at the Public Record Office, Kew, London and the British Newspaper Library, Colindale, London. There are other smaller specialist centres where National Records are kept but these two Record Sites are an absolute must if you are planning a research trip to the UK.

The Public Record Office at Kew is an impressive modern building with a vast store of archives kept in over 100 miles of shelving. Many documents are very old, some over 1,000 years. It is likely that your Ancestors will feature here somewhere.There are a vast range of records here the most heavily accessed being military records. Others include legal records, records of emigration / immigration, changes of name, police records, debtors / bankrupts, prisoners of war and many others. To see more of the vast array of records visit the on line index at

Most of the records are original documents - parchment, paper or bound volumes although an increasing proportion of records are available on microform.Very few of these records are on line and a personal visit or hired researcher is necessary.

The British Newspaper Library at Colindale, London has the largest collection of newspapers in the UK and Commonwealth from the early 18th Century onwards. Magazines and periodicals are also kept.

Most newspapers are not indexed making research more challenging... or frustrating. However a determined researcher can find a gold mine of information. From the mid 18 th Century Newspapers in an Ancestral area should be searched for birth, marriage, death,burial & divorce notices, lists of bankrupts, criminals, property sales, etc.

The Times national newspaper has been indexed from the 18th Century onwards. The Newspapers Library on line catalogue will now search for Newspapers by title, place of publication or distribution and date. See

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    Philip Westwood runs a genealogical service enabling Americans and Canadians to research their English Ancestors. For more details view his profile.

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