Hampshire Genealogical Society

Free National Archive downloads

In normal times, The National Archives at Kew is a great day out for Genealogists.

It can be a bit daunting at first because of its size, but it is wonderful to go there and look at old documents that in some cases go back one thousand years. It is amazing to find an ancestor named in an old hand written court record, military muster list or taxation record. One great advantage compared to most County Record Offices, photography is free, so smart phones and cameras are essential for capturing the content of any document that can only be viewed in person.

Unfortunately, due to the Covid19 pandemic, The National Archives is currently closed to visitors, thus taking out of range for now, all the paper records that can only be viewed at the location. I thoroughly recommend a visit to Kew when normal times eventually return.

In the meantime, all is not lost. The National Archives has a very comprehensive and excellent website with a large array of viewable resources. The online catalogue is called “Discovery”, this contains 32 million descriptions of records held by The National Archives and more than 2,500 archives across the country. Over 9 million records are available for download.

Normally the digitised records cost £3.50 each to download, or they can be viewed free of charge in person at Kew. The National Archives has just announced that for the duration of the lockdown and closure to the public, these records may be downloaded free of charge. Here is a link:


You will need to register for a free account and then log in to view the digital records, instructions are in this link.

Whilst we are confined to our homes and particularly for our overseas members, this is a great opportunity to download records of one’s ancestors at no cost. As a regular researcher, sometimes I create a list of digitised records I want to view for free on my next visit, now I can just work through this on my home computer.

A final note, within “Discovery” there are many educational resources, the Research Guides are generally excellent. The National Archives also have blogs, podcasts and offer various videos and webinars.

I thoroughly recommend The National Archives online resources, now more than ever before, to HGS members.


Phil Brown

HGS (Executive Member)

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