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The records we hold

The National Archives is home to millions of historical documents, known as records, which were created and collected by UK central government departments and major courts of law.

For example, we have records from the Home Office, the Foreign Office and the Central Criminal Court.

It takes 185km of shelving to store our records, and this increases every year.

People in the archives

Most of our records are administrative documents, but many contain information that will help you if you are looking for a person, such as military service records from before the 1920s.

We also have copies of naturalisation certificates (1949-1986).

A huge range of subjects

Our records form a unique resource for those interested in the history of England, Wales and the United Kingdom. They cover a huge range of subjects, so no matter what you’re researching, we could have the records you need.

Browse our research guidance to find out what records we have for a particular subject, place or person.

Dates and formats

The majority of our records are at least 20-30 years old. We continue to collect records from government departments each year – read about our latest document releases.

Our most famous early record is Domesday Book, which dates back to 1086, and our more contemporary records include those from Margaret Thatcher’s government in the 1980s. We also have electronic records and websites.

Our collection comes in a range of formats from paper and parchment to digital files. The content can sometimes be surprising – you can never be sure what you will find until you see the record.

Some of our records are available online, but to see the others you will need to visit us in Kew.

Withheld information

Though most of our records are open to the public, some are not. In many cases this is because they contain sensitive information about individuals who may still be alive. There are other reasons for withholding information and you can find out more about them in our Freedom of Information pages.

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