The National Archives Review
Classification: Essential site
Secure Ordering: Yes
Spectacular improvements to the website of the British National Archives make it indispensable to the genealogist.
The National Archives
The National Archives' website has replaced that of the PRO (Public Records Office) and its layout has been hugely improved. That said, the amount of information here is massive and so dense, that finding certain documents or references remains more or less serendipitious. It was a well-nigh impossible task creating the website given that 'The National Archives of England, Wales and the United Kingdom has one of the largest archival collections in the world, spanning 1000 years of British history from Domesday to government papers recently released to the public.' Be warned that the 'Browse from here' button, on the top right of most pages, will take you away from your chosen topic, rather than lead you into it in greater depth.
A useful innovation is splitting the material into three fields, Family History, Military History or History in General. It is probably safer to start from one of these than to use the Popular Search button, where items in the drop-down menu list BMDs, Census or Merchant Navy alongside Jack the Ripper and UFOs.
Family History The choices in the drop-down list of Topics to Research is fully relevant. Navigation is straightforward.
Military History follows the same format, with an introductory page and a list of research topics. There is a link to what is now called the Archives Portal (formerly ARCHON).
History in General follows a slightly different path and this is where the almost baffingly large and varied resources of the National Archives becomes most evident. The Research Guides produce a dauntingly long list. The search facility is excellent so make use of it.
A2A (Access to Archives), found under the Search Other Archives tab, is a critical part of the site that you need be aware, as it is wider in scope than what is housed at either the National Archives office in Kew, or in the Family Records Centre. A2A gives you access to catalogues of countless other archival bodies, describing material held nationwide, some dating from 10th Century.
If you plan to vist the National Archives, click on the Visit Us tab, where practical advice is given. Plan your visit in advance by ordering documents before.
Exhibitions & Learning There is good material here and it is worth exploring.
Shop leads to more than the National Archives excellent bookshop, from which you can order online.
Score - TNA - The National Archives scores a 9/10
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