Researching your ancestors from Great Britain and Ireland

A guide to researching your ancestors in England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, using resources at State Library Victoria.


Throughout the British Isles you will find hundreds of archive agencies featuring rich and unique collections. The largest repository is the National Archives - the official archive of the UK goverment. Next there are the national archives for Scotland, Wales and Ireland followed by the various county record offices. Finally there are the specialised archive collections, which may focus on anything from occupations and businesses to societies and clubs, i.e. the National Fairground Archive.

Archive offices hold a wide range of material, including correspondence, historical records, maps, photographs and manuscripts. Many agencies have digitised important collections - making access available from home. Once you have found a relevant archive, check it's website to see what material is available online. If you need to access material that's not online, see if the agency offers a research service. If not, you might like to hire a genealogist to undertake research on your behalf.


You can find a comprehensive list of archives by using the National Archives UK Find an archive search engine. This resource includes local, special, national, university, private and business archives.

Alternately, search the GENUKI website by country or country to find a list of agencies.

England & Wales


The National Archives UK
The official archive and publisher for the UK government, and for England and Wales.
The National Archive holds over 11 million British historical government and public records from the last 1,000 years. The National Archives have also produced a a series of excellent online research guides.

Archives Wales
Is a web resource that allows cross searching of over 20 major archival agencies in Wales.



Channel Islands

Isle of Man


Search the websites of national, county and local libraries to find out more about their genealogical and historical collections. Many libraries have digitised important parts of their collections such as books, maps, pictures, directories and other historical documents, making it possible for you to access material from home. Try and locate a library in the town you are researching to see what resources are available. In many cases you will find online guides to their collections as well as  information on what sort of research services are offered.