How to look for records of... Colonies and dependencies
How can I view the records covered in this guide?
This is a brief guide to help you with your research into British colonies and dependencies. A number of government departments have had responsibility for colonies and dependencies at different times. Their individual filing systems can make it complicated to identify the records you want. This guide will help you to find some of the key records held at The National Archives.
What do I need to know before I start?
What records can I see online?
What records can I find at The National Archives at Kew?
What records can I find in other archives and organisations?
What other resources will help me find information?
Did you know?
In general, the records of former colonies in The National Archives consist of letters between the governors of individual territories and British government departments.
Government departments responsible for colonial affairs have included:
- War and Colonial Department 1801-1854
- Colonial Office 1854-1966
- Dominions Office 1925-1947
- Commonwealth Relations Office 1947-1966
- Commonwealth Office 1966-1968 Diplomatic Service Administration Office 1966-1968
- Foreign and Commonwealth Office 1968-date
Between 1849 and 1926, Colonial Office correspondence was recorded in registers. The letters themselves were numbered and then bound into volumes for each country or department, in numerical order, not by subject.
The National Archives does not usually hold the records of colonial governments themselves. Most of these records have remained in the countries concerned and generally form the basis of their national archives.