Plan a Visit to the Archives

Want to do more with your genealogy research? Well, one suggestion for you is to plan a visit to the archives where your ancestor lived to find out more.

Visit to the Archives

The archives or public record office will hold an array of certificates and documents about your ancestors.

Before you go to an archive though there are several considerations for you to make the most out of your visit, which I will discuss in this post.

Before you continue!

I just want to share with you two aids that will help your visit to the archives.

Please check out The site offers an interactive map where you can find a family history center.

This is a worldwide map so chances are that you will find a center near where your ancestor lived and worked.

Please watch this!

Please watch the following video that is presented by genealogist Crista Cowan from Ancestry.

Credit:   Ancestry

Here, she explains what you can expect from State Archives and how to get the most from them.

Further Information!

The What To Do At The Archives article will discuss further what you can expect at the archives. This post though will concentrate on what you need to do before you visit an archive center.

If you are not able to visit an archive then you can always check out a genealogy search website. These sites may have records from the archives that you are interested in. Although there will be a fee for this service.

Express Your Thoughts Below

Express Your Thoughts Below!

I would love to hear from you.

What Records Are Available?

There are many different types of certificates and documents available to you. They can range from a birth certificate to a passenger list.

The type of record that you will find will have varying amounts of details about your ancestor.

So, you might find their date of birth, their address, their occupation, or how they emigrated to America.

Records to expect at the archives:

  • Birth, Death and Marriage Certificates,Certificate
  • Electoral Register,
  • Business and Residential Addresses,
  • Passenger Lists,
  • Military,
  • Wills and Probate,
  • Land and Properties,
  • Civil and Criminal Justice,
  • Education,
  • Mental Health.

First Check The Online Catalogue

Before you get to the archives you may be able to check the archives online catalog. Here you will be able to view and pre-order records.

Online Catalogue

This will save you time as you will not have to wait for a staff member to find what you are after.

Copying and downloading records!

You can order copies of records and have them posted to you instead of visiting the archives.

Be aware though that this generally costs more than photocopying the record yourself at the archives.

But this can save you time if you live far away from the archives.

Genealogy is a hobby where you will not only be spending time but money as well.

So, any saving such as downloading records will save you much-needed time and money that you could otherwise better spend on your research.

Some restrictions may apply!

Some records though have some restrictions so you will not be allowed to copy them.

A visit to the archives to view these records is your best option in these circumstances.

This visit though will give you the chance to explore where your ancestors lived.

So, you could make the most of the time by visiting where your ancestors worked, where they married, and where they were buried.

Contact The Archives

You will be able to find contact details for the archive you want to visit on their website. The archive’s address, phone number, opening hours, and directions will all be listed.

Telephone Interview

Check with the archives first!

It is important to contact the archives before your visit as some records may be security classified. Advanced notice will therefore need to be made.

You can let staff know which records you are after and when you intend to visit.

Some records are stored off-site due to space constraints so for this reason, it is well worth it for you to contact the archives.

Leave your details for further contact!

If you contact the archives by email then it is best to leave your postal address and phone number. It is a good idea to give the archive different ways that they can contact you.

For example, maybe your Internet service is down or you can’t get to a computer for some reason. You want some way that they can get hold of you.

What Are The Opening Hours?

Before you visit an archive it is well worth to note their opening hours. It is no point turning up at an archive only to find out that they are only open for half the day, or maybe they are closed for that day.

Open Hours

Some record offices may charge an entrance fee. So, there is that consideration as well.

When exactly can you visit?

Archives may be open during weekends or the evenings. It is worth checking if this is the case with the archive that you are planning to visit.

But do note that professional archive staff may not be present for these times.

Also, some services like photocopying may not be available to you as well.

It is a good idea to allow for extra time for your visit. There are always unexpected discoveries that will pique your interest.

And some documents may be hard to read so these will take time to decipher.

To be honest, though I have often been caught out with lack of time. It may surprise you with the direction that your family history research will take.

One moment you are checking records about one ancestor and then you are tracing back their paternal and maternal lines.

Where Are You Traveling From?

Traveling directions will be available on the archives website that you intend to visit. You may be traveling by bus, car, bicycle, motorbike, train, or even by foot.

Where are you travelling from?

Directions for all of these modes of transport will usually be given. There may also be a car park next to or near to the archives.

There may be charges for the use of the car park as well.

Plan for your stay in the area!

If you are traveling from afar the archives website may list nearby accommodations that you can stay at.

This will be useful to you as you will have to stay overnight at least.

You may even need to make several visits to the archive during your stay. Sometimes after a visit, you need to digest what you have found and then go back for more.

So, it is worth considering half a week’s stay or maybe even longer.

If the archives do not list any accommodation then you will have to conduct this research yourself.

Google can be your friend in this case.

When You Arrive At The Archives

Depending on which archives you intend to visit you will need either a reader’s ticket or a researcher identification card.


To be granted access to the materials you will usually need to provide two forms of identification.

The identification you may need:

  • A Previous Reader’s Ticket,
  • Passport,
  • Driving License,
  • Bank Card or Statement,
  • Utility Bill,
  • National ID Card.

There may be other forms of identification that you can provide on your visit.

So, it is worth checking with the archives what you can bring along to prove who you are.

After all, you don’t want to leave these at home.

Any of these papers, documents, or cards will need to show a current address that has been issued within the past six months.

So, make sure that they are up to date or you will be heartbroken that your visit to the archive was in vain.

Disabled Access and Services

It is advisable to check first whether wheelchair access and what services are available to you before your visit. Many record offices will offer assistance to disabled researchers.

Disabled Access and Services

They may also offer a wheelchair to borrow. Assistance dogs may be granted access to the archives. But it is worth checking first.

What other assistance is available?

If you are partially sighted then reading aids may be available to you, such as magnifying glasses and sheet magnifiers.

Braille versions of records will most likely not be available so you may wish to bring someone with you who can help you.

There may be accessible computers for you to use that have a large mouse and keyboard. You may also ask for assistance with these from a staff member.

Some archive centers may have a staff member on duty who can sign. It is worth checking before your visit when this person will be available.

The archives may also provide induction loop systems.

If there is a cafe or restaurant then please check whether they do offer wheelchair access. Chances are they will, but it is always best to check first.

The same applies to toilet facilities as well.

What Other Services Do They Offer?

Some record offices do have a cafe or restaurant. You can break up your visit to the archives by going to the cafe for something to eat and drink.


Sometimes researching for long hours can make you feel drained. Trust me, I know!

Take it easy and don’t overdo it!

So, you can take a break for a while. When you come back to researching you will feel refreshed.

Trust me it is better this way. You want to be able to concentrate and get the most from your visit.

You will feel drained if you don’t have a break once in a while.

Please note that you will not be allowed to bring any food or drinks into the archives.

What other facilities are available?

Photocopiers will also be available so that once you have found the records that you are after you may be allowed to make a copy.

This will incur a fee, as well as requesting scans of photos and microfilms, and copies of the video and audio recordings.

The archives that you intend to visit may offer Internet access. You may also be able to bring your laptop computer.

If so you will need to inquire how to access the Internet from your device.

Thank You and Please Leave A Comment

I hope you enjoyed this post about how to plan a visit to the archives. If you have any questions or comments then please leave a comment below.

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