Visit the National Archives, Kew
You can view original documents in the reading rooms from 09:00 Tuesday – Saturday. On Wednesday, Friday and Saturday the Archive closes at 5.00pm. On Tuesday and Thursday it stays open till 7.00pm. Documents can be ordered between 9.30am and 4.00pm. The Archive is closed over Christmas and New Year, Easter and Bank Holiday weekends.
The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU
The National Archives is home to millions of historical documents covering a huge range of subjects, including more than 70,000 images, from ancient maps to iconic advertising. The building houses records which have been created and collected by UK central government departments such as the Home Office and the Foreign Office, and major courts of law such as the Central Criminal Court. The National Archive is a unique resource for those interested in the history of the United Kingdom.
There are certain records, such as birth, marriage and death certificates, that they do not hold. You will not find army service records after 1923, wills after 1858, Parish records, legal proof of divorces later than 1858, adoption records or certificates of naturalisation after 1 October 1986. See where they suggest to look for those records.
To see what they do have, you can use their A-Z index or use their subject guides for: Family History / First World War / Second World War / Military and Maritime history / Social and Cultural history / Criminals, Courts and Prisons / Political and Economic history / Foreign and Colonial history / Land and Maps / Medieval and early modern history / Records for current legal purposes. See their research guides.
The Research & Enquiry Room has an excellent library holding books on many subjects and the bookshop sells books on all subjects, including many on the World Wars.
They also have an excellent programme of events about the full range of subjects covered by their collection, with special activities for children, particularly in school holidays. The Time Travel Club offers children the opportunity to ‘Travel with us to discover significant people from the past. From Tudor monarchs and Guy Fawkes, to the fight for suffrage and the role of spies during the Second World War, fascinating stories about the lives of people who helped to shape history can be found in our files’. Adult events are scheduled in the morning, afternoon and evenings on anything from ‘Henry VIII and the break with Rome’ to a talk on Sylvia Pankhurst, wartime spies or the partition of India.