Free access to digital records
We are making digital records available on our website free of charge for as long as our Kew site is closed to visitors.
Registered users will be able to order and download up to 10 items at no cost, to a maximum of 50 items over 30 days. The limits are there to try and help manage the demand for content and ensure the availability of our digital services for everyone.
To access the service and download for free, users will be required to:
- Register/sign in to their Discovery account before adding items to their basket (maximum ten items per basket)
- Abide by the terms of our fair use policy
- Complete the order process to receive a download link, which will remain active for 30 days. (The link will also be saved in ‘Your orders’ in your account for 30 days)
How can I download documents for free?
You will be required to register for a free account on our website and be logged in to be able to download documents.
To find records that are available to download for free, filter your search results in Discovery to include records that are ‘available for download only’.
What sort of documents can I download?
You will be able to download records digitised by The National Archives and published through Discovery, our online catalogue. These include:
- First and Second World War records, including medal index cards
- Military records, including unit war diaries
- Royal and Merchant Navy records, including Royal Marine service records
- Wills from the jurisdiction of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury
- Migration records, including aliens’ registration cards and naturalisation case papers
- 20th century Cabinet Papers and Security Service files
- Domesday Book
A full list of digitised collections can be seen here, although please note that it includes collections available on other sites that may charge for access, and are not included in this offer.
Does this apply to all digital records that are searchable in Discovery?
No, as not all digital records searchable in Discovery are available on our website.
The free access will apply to the digitised collections on our website, but it will not extend to our collections on other sites run by our commercial partners, such as Ancestry, Findmypast and The Genealogist. These sites are usually free to search with a subscription charge to view and download records, although most offer a 14-day free trial and some are currently offering selected free access to their collections.
How many documents can I download at one time?
We’ll be limiting the number of items that users can download at one time to ensure that our systems remain accessible to as many people as possible.
Our fair and reasonable use policy applies, and states the following:
- The National Archives permits registered users to order and download a reasonable number of documents for free and has set a maximum order limit of 50 documents in a 30-day period.
- In order to maintain the integrity of the service for everyone, and ensure that as many people as possible can benefit from it, we reserve the right to disable users’ accounts where there is a breach of this fair use policy.
Are there restrictions as to how I can use a downloaded document/image?
Can I get help in finding and downloading documents?
We have a wide range of research guides to help you navigate your way through our online catalogue.
Our live chat service, which provides one-to-one expert research advice, is available between 09:00 and 17:00, from Monday to Saturday.
We’re also running free webinars with our experts on 19 May and 16 June, offering an introduction to Discovery and offering some top tips on getting the most out of it to find what you’re looking for.
Latest News from
Over £330,000 awarded in grants to archive services18/09/2020 14:15:00
During the COVID-19 pandemic, archives have demonstrated an impressive ability to innovate and engage with archive users.
Digital preservation project shortlisted for award16/09/2020 12:43:00
National Archives are delighted to announce that our Safeguarding the Nation’s Digital Memory project team has been shortlisted for The Software Sustainability Institute Award for Research and Innovation at the 2020 Digital Preservation Awards.
The National Archives now open, offering greater access to our collections07/09/2020 13:38:00
National Archives are very pleased to be able to welcome visitors back into our reading rooms, offering a limited service to visitors who need access to our collection of original documents for their research.
Artwork to commemorate heroes of the Blitz commissioned by Ancestry07/09/2020 09:15:00
Family history experts Ancestry have commissioned 33 artists around the UK to create artwork based on Civil Gallantry Award records held at The National Archives to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the start of the Blitz.
The National Archives welcomes Swedish School onsite at Kew25/08/2020 09:05:00
We are delighted to announce the commencement of a new strategic collaboration with the Swedish School in London (SSL).
Tickets now available for Meet the Author series20/08/2020 09:15:00
This autumn, we will be launching Meet the Author, a brand new programme of free online talks with high-profile authors.
The National Archives now open, offering a limited service07/08/2020 16:15:00
National Archives are very pleased to announce that they are now able to welcome visitors back into thier reading rooms.
Newly accredited archive services announced30/07/2020 14:15:00
The UK Archive Service Accreditation Committee is pleased to announce that the University of Manchester Library was awarded Archive Service Accreditation for the first time at the latest panel meeting in July 2020.
The National Archives now open, offering a limited service27/07/2020 09:10:00
We’re very pleased to announce that we are now able to welcome visitors back into our reading rooms. We are offering a limited service to visitors who need access to our collection of original documents for their research. Visitors are required to book their visit and order their documents in advance.