> Organise Yourself > Planning Archive Visits





Pre Visit Checks

  Proof of Identity
  Research Kit Bag
  Getting There
  Pre Visit Checks

Avoid assuming too much before visiting your record office or other archives repository. It is well worth checking on their web site that it is not closed for internal organisational purposes (e.g. checking of archives) on the day of your intended visit. For each record office in England and Wales this web site provides links to its web site page on opening hours.

It is also worth checking out that you have got the right repository for the documents you are searching for. With changing local boundaries, this is often not as straightforward as you might initially assume. For example Rutland wills made before 1858 are held at the Northamptonshire Record Office and not at the Leicestershire & Rutland Record Office. This is because Rutland fell with the diocese of Peterborough when wills came under the jurisdiction of ecclesiastical courts.

Also check whether an appointment is necessary or advisable. This can save wasted journeys. It is quite common on some days for every piece of equipment and seat to be reserved, which could result in your being turned away if you do not have an appointment.

If you plan to copy documents at the record office, it is worth checking first what their rules and charges are. They vary enormously from record office to record office.

  Proof of Identity
  Proof of identity is normally required to gain access to a record office's searchroom and those of other archive repositories such as the National Archives. This usually involves showing official documents that validate your name and contain your permanent address and signature. Visitors to the United Kingdom are recommended to take their passports with them to the record office along with a document such as a driving licence that shows their permanent address. Most record offices are members of the CARN reader tickets scheme so if you are likely to make further visits, it is well worth obtaining a CARN readers ticket (issued free of charge and lasting for 4 years). See the section within this web site for details of issue requirements.
  Research Kit Bag

You are strongly recommended to acquire a soft bag which can readily fit into a locker for your visits to record offices and other archive repositories. Many record offices have strict rules on what can be taken into the searchroom itself so invariably there will be items you will have to leave behind in a locker when you go into the searchroom. Hence the need for a soft bag. Also note that these rules vary from office to office and so do not assume that because you can do something in one office you will necessarily be able to do the same in another.

In addition to containing personal items, you might like to think of including the following research aids (some of which you will be allowed to take into the searchroom) in your 'research kit bag':

  • notepaper
  • pencil case with pencils, sharpener, eraser, etc
  • ruler
  • magnifying glass
  • tracing paper for maps and plans than cannot be copied any other way (but check if allowed first)
  • relevant family history notes and records
  • plastic pockets and folders
  • digital camera if planning to take photographs of documents (but check if allowed first)
  • laptop and accessories
  • coins for photocopier, microform reader/printer, lockers, car parks
This page last updated: 29 December 2017