Free access to digital records
We are making digital records available on our website free of charge for the time being, as we are initially only able to re-open our reading rooms for a very limited number of researchers.
Registered users will be able to order and download up to ten items at a time, to a maximum of 50 items over 30 days. The limits are there to try to help manage the demand for content and ensure the availability of our digital services for everyone.
To access the service and download for free, users will be required to:
- Register/sign in to their Discovery account before adding items to their basket (maximum ten items per basket)
- Abide by the terms of our fair use policy
- Complete the order process to receive a download link, which will remain active for 30 days. (The link will also be saved in ‘Your orders’ in your account for 30 days)
How can I download documents for free?
You will be required to register for a free account on our website and be logged in to be able to download documents.
To find records that are available to download for free, filter your search results in Discovery to include records that are ‘available for download only’.
What sort of documents can I download?
You will be able to download records digitised by The National Archives and published through Discovery, our online catalogue. These include:
- First and Second World War records, including medal index cards
- Military records, including unit war diaries
- Royal and Merchant Navy records, including Royal Marine service records
- Wills from the jurisdiction of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury
- Migration records, including aliens’ registration cards and naturalisation case papers
- 20th century Cabinet Papers and Security Service files
- Domesday Book
A full list of digitised collections can be seen here, although please note that it includes collections available on other sites that may charge for access, and are not included in this offer.
Does this apply to all digital records that are searchable in Discovery?
No, as not all digital records searchable in Discovery are available on our website.
The free access will apply to the digitised collections on our website, but it will not extend to our collections on other sites run by our commercial partners, such as Ancestry, Findmypast and The Genealogist. These sites are usually free to search with a subscription charge to view and download records, although most offer a 14-day free trial and some are currently offering selected free access to their collections.
How many documents can I download at one time?
We’ll be limiting the number of items that users can download at one time to ensure that our systems remain accessible to as many people as possible.
Our fair and reasonable use policy applies, and states the following:
- The National Archives permits registered users to order and download a reasonable number of documents for free and has set a maximum order limit of 50 documents in a 30-day period.
- In order to maintain the integrity of the service for everyone, and ensure that as many people as possible can benefit from it, we reserve the right to disable users’ accounts where there is a breach of this fair use policy.
Are there restrictions as to how I can use a downloaded document/image?
Can I get help in finding and downloading documents?
We have a wide range of research guides to help you navigate your way through our online catalogue.
Our live chat service, which provides one-to-one expert research advice, is available between 09:00 and 17:00, from Tuesday to Saturday.
We’re also running free webinars with our experts on 19 May and 16 June, offering an introduction to Discovery and offering some top tips on getting the most out of it to find what you’re looking for.