National Archives - Home Page (2023)

Use this guide for tips on how to find records or other forms of proof of a person who has changed their name. There are tips on the types of records that have been created from the 16th century to the present.

You may feel like the proof of a name change just isn't there. Contrary to popular belief, it has always been possible to change your name without having to register the change with the government or any other official body. It is still perfectly legal for anyone over the age of 16 to start using a new name at any time, as long as they are not doing so for fraudulent or illegal reasons.

The National Archives cannot provide legal advice. If you have changed your name and need legal advice to prove the change, for example to obtain a passport, you should speak to a lawyer orCitizen Councils.

For tips on how to change your name by write vote and "enter" the change, go toChange your name by deed searchpage on GOV.UK.

2. A brief history of name change in the UK

Historically, many people have preferred not to draw attention to the name change. When, for example, divorce was more difficult, some people would simply adopt their new partner's name to allow them to appear married and to make children appear legitimate.

When people wanted their name change to be more official, they might have made an announcement in the press or made a statement before a justice of the peace or commissioner of oaths.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, and to a lesser extent before that, private acts of Parliament and, more commonly, royal licenses were used for official name changes, but these methods were superseded in the 20th century by voting by Actions.

2.1 Aliens residing in the United Kingdom, 1916-1971

In 1916, enemy foreigners residing in Great Britain were prohibited from changing their names. In 1919 the ban was extended to all foreigners in Britain and was only lifted in 1971. The exceptions to this rule were:

  • if a woman took her husband's surname at marriage
  • if a new name has been assumed by royal license
  • if the Minister of the Interior has granted special permission

2.2 Name change declarations during World War II, 1939-1945

During World War II, people who wanted to change their name had to make a declaration to that effect and publish the details in the London, Edinburgh or Belfast Gazette 21 days in advance. This would make it possible to modify the records of the National Registry and issue an identity card and a ration book with the new name.

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The 1939 Register was updated to 1991, and the updates include many name changes. These are mainly when women change their surnames upon marriage, but name changes for other reasons are also included. A name change accompanied by the notation 'NR230' denotes a name change for reasons other than marriage.

The original statements were destroyed when the National Register was abolished in 1952, but you can search the London, Edinburgh or Belfast Gazettes (see section 4).

3. Write-in voting records

A deed search is a legal contract involving only one party.

If the deed was written without the help of a lawyer, there may never have been any record beyond the document itself. If it was done by a lawyer, he may have kept a copy on file, but it is unlikely that the file has been kept for more than five years.

A person who changes their name can 'register' their voting deed, creating a permanent record, in the Registry Books of the Superior Court of Justice (formerly Chancellery Closing Lists). However, this option comes at a cost and we estimate that less than 1% of deed name changes are recorded. Consequently, most of the research records of the Scriptures have not survived.

The National Archive only contains records of registered titles. To locate a registered title, you will needvisit ourto consult the indices of names held at the Kew National Archives (they are not available online). If you can't visit in person, you can insteadpay for a survey, though for records from 1945-2003 we'll do a free search for you (see below).

If no record survives and you need proof of a name change, contact an attorney orCitizen Councilsfor legal advice.

3.1 How to search for a registered deed voting record from 1851-1903

The indices for that period remain in the C 275 series, and show only the previous denomination. To move from the indices to the action search logs themselves, follow these steps:

Step 1 – Use our online catalog tosearch in C275for a document reference to an index. To search, use the word 'index' and the year the name change took place (if you don't know the year, select a range of years).

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Step 2: Once you have a C 275 reference (you will have more than one if you don't know the exact year of the name change), request the respective indexes to search at Kew.

Step 3 – Search for the old name in the selected indices. Will provide a 'part number' reference to a document in C 54.

Paso 4:Search in C 54with the part number (expressed as 'Part 12', for example) and the year. This will provide you with a full C 54 reference (C 54/15436 for example) with which you can request and view the document.

3.2 How to search for a 1904-1944 recorded deed voting record

The indexes and the registration books themselves from 1904 to 2003 are inJ 18🇧🇷 To find a name change for those years, follow these steps:

Step 1: Find a document reference for the table(s) of contentslooking for the j18listed in our online catalog. To search, use the exact phrase 'index for' and the year or range of years in which the name change occurred (if you don't know the exact year, select a range of years).

Step 2 – Once you have a J 18 index reference, request the respective indices to query at Kew.

Step 3: Find the old or new name (in some cases they are referenced, in others there is a note) in the selected index. It will provide a part number reference to another document in J 18.

Step 4 - Find your part number J 18 bynavigating the J 18(part numbers appear in intervals). This will provide you with a complete J 18 reference (J 18/402 for example) with which you can request and view the document.

3.3 How to search for a registered deed voting record from 1945-2003

… connected

Step 1: You must first verify that the voter registration record has been effectively registered with the Supreme Court of Justice. To do this, search by name inNewspaperwhere all recorded name changes have been announced since 1914. If you find an entry in The Gazette, go to Step 2; if you don't find an entry, we won't have a record of the change and you may need to speak to a lawyer if you need legal proof of identity.

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Step 2: Use ourrecords and surveys inquiry formTo request a free search of our name change indices: include current name, previous name, and the year the name change occurred.

Step 3 – Please allow 10 business days for our team to respond to your inquiry.

Step 4: If we find a reference in the index for your scripture search, we'll send you a full J 18 reference; with that reference, you can use ourdisc copy servicepay to have a certified copy of the poll document mailed to you.

…in our building at Kew

Use the J 18 indices located in our open reading rooms to search by old name or new name for a complete J 18 reference (J 18/463, for example) with which you can sort and view the document.

3.4 How to search for a hyphenated voting record from 2004 to the present

ContactRoyal Courts of Justicefor details of registrations since late 2003.

4. Announcements in official gazettes and other newspapers

Some people choose to place name change announcements in local or national newspapers, traditionally and most commonly inThe times🇧🇷 To find these ads, trydigital archive of times(available on the National Archives website and other subscribing institutions) or atBritish newspaper library.

Announcements for the official public record are made in The London Gazette, Edinburgh Gazette or Belfast Gazette. SearchNewspaperonline by name for name change announcements of the following types:

  • deed authorization from 1914 to the present (from 1914 all deed authorizations had to be announced in one of the Gazettes)
  • Name changes during World War II (see section 2.2)
  • name changes by real license (see section 5)
  • Name changes granted by special permission of the Minister of the Interior

5. Actual licenses

Royal licenses for name changes were common in the 18th and 19th centuries, but in later years would be more commonly issued only when:

  • an inheritance depended on someone taking the deceased's name
  • marriage agreement requires the husband to adopt his wife's name
  • a change of name also required a change of coat of arms

Royal license name changes are advertised in government newspapers (see section 4), but the National Archives have a small number of royal license orders for name changes in the following series of records (note that they are not can search online):

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  • ESP 44for the period up to 1782
  • UP TO 38from 1782 to February 1868
  • A 142from February 1868 onwards

There is also some correspondence describing individual instances of name changes in:

  • UP TO 45for the period 1841-1871
  • A 144for the period 1868-1959

the college of armsit also has actual license records. From 1783 royal license requests were made or a report from the college was required. Contact them for more information.

6. Private Acts of Parliament

Some name changes were made by private act of Parliament, generally for the same reasons as those made by royal license (see above). This was quite common in the 18th and 19th centuries, but since 1907 it has only been used once.

Acts of Parliament are published in printed volumes organized by year. The National Archives library has a set, as do some other libraries. It could be useful:

For more information onwhere to see copies of private recordsclick on the link and go to point 6.

oParliamentary Archiveit also has records relating to the name change by Act of Parliament. Check their website for details ofhow to visit.

7. An index of name changes from 1760 to 1901

To find a name change to 1901, it may be worth looking upAn index of name changes for the United Kingdom and Ireland 1760-1901by W P Phillimore and Edward Alex Fry, a copy of which is kept in our reading rooms at Kew.a digitized versionit can also be found at The Internet Archive. This name index provides references to the sources in which the name change appears, including:

  • Private Acts of Parliament
  • Royal Licenses published in the London and Dublin Gazettes
  • deed search logs
  • notices of name changes published in The Times after 1861 with some notices from other newspapers
  • records ofCourt of Lord Lyonwhere Scottish name changes were commonly recorded
  • records at the office of the Ulster King at Arms in Dublin

I did not include:

  • Actual license changes not announced in the London Gazette
  • write-in vote changes that were recorded but not announced in The Times

A name search index for this volume and some other sources is available atthe genealogist(applicable fees)

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Can you search the National Archives 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'.

How do I access National Archive records? ›

Go to the Catalog main page at: Conduct a search for the records of interest to you. You can search by keyword, National Archives Identifier (NAID), or type of archival material.

Can the public access the National Archives? ›

The National Archives Museum in Washington, DC, and Presidential Library museums are open to the public without limits on occupancy or days and hours of operation.

Can I just turn up to the National Archives? ›

Our building, including our reading rooms and exhibition spaces, is now open to everyone. We encourage reading room visitors to book their visit and order documents in advance, although this is no longer essential. You do not need to book to visit our exhibition, shop or cafe.

What is hidden in the National Archives? ›

The National Archives holds hundreds of miles of film and tape, some 14 million still photographs—and billions of pieces of paper. In addition to these permanent holdings, the National Archives cares for billions of temporary, inactive records stored in our Federal Records Centers (FRCs) across the nation.

Is there an archive of everything on the Internet? ›

The Internet Archive is an American digital library with the stated mission of "universal access to all knowledge". It provides free public access to collections of digitized materials, including websites, software applications/games, music, movies/videos, moving images, and millions of books.

How do I access my archive on my phone? ›

Check archive & unarchive items
  1. On your Android phone or tablet, open the Google Photos app .
  2. Sign in to your Google Account.
  3. At the bottom, tap Library. Archive.
  4. Select a photo. Touch and hold to select multiple photos.
  5. Tap More. Unarchive.

How do I find historical documents? ›

For the arts, history, and humanities, original primary source documents usually are housed in museums, archives, restricted library collections, and government offices. Reproductions of primary source documents often can be found in online digital collections, microform collections, books, and other secondary works.

Is Internet Archive library free? ›

Internet Archive is a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more.

Why can't you take pictures at the National Archives? ›

Why can't I take photographs in the National Archives Museum? Historical documents are fragile and can fade when exposed to light. The National Archives must balance keeping documents available for visitors to view with our need to preserve them for future generations.

What 3 documents are in the National Archives? ›

The National Archives Museum in Washington, DC, is home to the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. These founding documents, along with the Lawrence F. O'Brien Gallery, the Public Vaults, and the David M.

Can I study at the National Archives? ›

The National Archives is an excellent place to carry out research for this and work with original sources. Similarly students who are completing the Extended Project Qualification on a historical topic of their choice may also use the National Archives for their research.

How long does it take to walk through the National Archives? ›

We recommend that you allow at least 90 minutes to visit the exhibit galleries.

Do I need to book the National Archives? ›

Terms of booking

You no longer need to book a visit to use our reading rooms, but we strongly encourage it to ensure that you have a seat. Each booking is for one person only on a first-come, first-served basis – you will not be able to bring anyone with you, unless they book a visit themselves or have a duty of care.

What is a good idea to do before you go to an archive? ›

Decide What You Want to See in Advance.

You should try to identify as much as possible, in as much detail as possible, exactly what records you might want to request and let the archivist know. Many items are not on site and there may be substantive (as in weeks) lead times for requests for boxes or documents.

What is the most requested item from the National Archives? ›

Most Requested
  • Declaration of Independence.
  • The Constitution.
  • The Bill of Rights.
  • World War II Photos.
  • Census Records.

Who stole from the National Archives? ›

Fifty-eight year old Sandy Berger, the former National Security Adviser under the Clinton Administration, illegally took classified documents from the National Archives on more than one occasion.

Are the federal archives really underground? ›

There is not an underground storage facility or archive under the National Mall. As Around the Mall blog and others have reported, this myth may have been perpetuated by the movie Night at the Museum, but there are no storage facilities under the Mall.

Why is Internet Archive sued? ›

The lawsuit was filed against Internet Archive in 2020 because of “anger among publishers” about digital lending by libraries. The publishers are urging the court to declare that “controlled digital lending is not a defense to copyright infringement” and is unlawful under United States law.

Is it legal to download from Internet Archive? ›

The short answer is yes, they are legal.

Where can I find primary historical sources? ›

You can find published primary sources by using the online catalog, or by searching in a digital collection of historical documents, such as the Gerritsen Collection of Women's History, Chronicling America, and Empire Online. The History Library maintains a list of these collections on its website.

Why is there no document history? ›

In Europe, in the 19th century, a famous German historian Leopold Van Ranke says that "no document, no history". No document, there is no history, Ranke claims that in the modern world, the elements of myth in a historical source should be reduced.

What is the oldest document in the National Archives? ›

For this page, we decided to limit our choices to accessioned records in the holdings of the National Archives of the United States. Gifts would have to wait for another day. The oldest written record identified so far is a set of fragments from a manuscript Talmud dating from about 1100.

How can I download books for free? ›

Free downloadable Ebook Websites
  1. Free Ebooks.Net. This site has some free ebooks you can download or view on your computer. ...
  2. Project Gutenberg. Project Gutenberg provides access to over 30,000 free ebooks that you can either view on your computer or download to a device. ...
  3. Obooko. ...
  4. ...
  5. Scribd.
23 Jun 2022

How do I download books from archive for free? ›

1) In order to download, you first need to create a free Internet Archive Account. 2) Once you are logged in, choose the "Borrow for 14 days" option from the drop down menu. 5) Once you have installed Adobe Digital Editions you can select one of the two download options, PDF or ePub.

Where can I download PDF books for free? ›

5 Best Sites to Download Free PDF Books in 2022
  • Open Library.
  • Bookboon.
  • PDF Books World.
  • Project Gutenberg.
  • ManyBooks.
13 Jan 2022

How long should I spend at the National Archives? ›

Visit the Archives if you have more than 30 minutes:

If you're not in a rush, we recommend 90 minutes to visit the Archives. You can explore the rest of the Rubenstein Gallery to learn about the Record of Rights, the Public Vaults, the rotating exhibits and you can spend more time reading about the Charters of Freedom.

Are photos from the National Archives free? ›

Generally, copies of photographic records held by the National Archives may be published without special permission or additional fees. The National Archives does not grant exclusive or non-exclusive publication privileges. Copies of Federal records, as part of the public domain, are equally available to all.

Is the original Declaration of Independence still readable? ›

Its legibility is greatly diminished, and the document today is much different in appearance from when it was penned in 1776. Compared to the legibility of the U.S. Constitution (1787) and Bill of Rights (1791), which are only slightly more recent, the differences are startling.

What is the 4 most important US documents? ›

Introduces seven of the nation's most important documents, provides the historical context, and breaks down the significant details of each document. Includes the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and others. For grades 4–7 and older readers.

What are the 5 founding documents in order? ›

U.S. Congress records from 1774 to 1875, including Bills and Resolutions, Congressional Record and Statutes at Large.
  • The Constitution. ...
  • Declaration of Independence. ...
  • Bill of Rights. ...
  • Federalist Papers.

Are archivists paid well? ›

A Archivist can earn average salaries in a range of $33,180 to $98,990 based on experience and talent.

Do archivists make good money? ›

Archivists make $47,145 per year on average, or $22.67 per hour, in the United States. Archivists on the lower end of that spectrum, the bottom 10% to be exact, make roughly $23,000 a year, while the top 10% makes $94,000.

Can you be an archivist without a degree? ›

What degree do you need to become an archivist? Job recruiters typically prefer candidates who have a degree in history, library science, archival science or another related field. They also seek candidates who have some experience in working with database management and basic computer skills.

Does it cost money to visit The National Archives? ›

Entry to the National Archives museum is free. Reservations are not required for individuals or groups wishing to visit the National Archives Museum, but they are strongly suggested between March and Labor Day to avoid potentially long lines outside.

Can you bring a backpack into The National Archives? ›

And people are always there to do research. 3 months ago. They don't have lockers but they do allow small bags in, just checked at security.

How much does National Archives cost? ›

We encourage you to visit The National Archives, where you can do your research and view documents free of charge, whether they are online documents or not online.

Can anyone look at the National Archives? ›

Using The National Archives' reference library

Our library is open to the public for browsing and reference only.

Can anyone access the National Archives? ›

Anyone can use the National Archives. You do not need to be an American citizen or to present credentials or a letter of recommendation.

How do you get a readers ticket at the National Archives? ›

To obtain or renew a reader's ticket you will need two forms of identity: a proof of name with a valid signature and a separate proof of address. You must bring the original document with you as proof of your name. We do not accept copies, images or prints for proof of your name.

What are the disadvantages of archive? ›

Limitations Of Archival Research
  • The researcher may not be able to find the exact information they are looking for. ...
  • The researcher may also come across a biased or opinionated source. ...
  • The researcher may not understand the language used in the archived documents.
14 Jun 2022

What are the 2 main principles of Archiving? ›

The first, which is generally known as the principle of provenance, is that archives should be kept according to their source. The second is that archives should be kept in the order originally imposed on them.

When you archive someone do they know? ›

4. Does Archiving a Chat Notify the Other Person. If you archive a conversation, WhatsApp doesn't notify the other person. Even if you delete a chat, the other person won't know.

Where can I view military records for free? ›

You can find veterans' military service records from World War I to the present from the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC). The NPRC houses many types of records, including Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF).

Does it cost money to visit the National Archives? ›

Entry to the National Archives museum is free. Reservations are not required for individuals or groups wishing to visit the National Archives Museum, but they are strongly suggested between March and Labor Day to avoid potentially long lines outside.

Can you view military records online? ›

This site is provided for those seeking information regarding military personnel, health and medical records stored at NPRC (MPR). If you are a veteran or next-of-kin of a deceased veteran, you may now use to order a copy of your military records.

How do I find my grandfather's military records for free? ›

If you're the next of kin of a Veteran who has passed away
  1. Mail or fax a Request Pertaining to Military Records (Standard Form SF 180) to the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC). ...
  2. Write a letter to the NPRC. ...
  3. Visit the NPRC in person.
  4. Contact your state or county Veterans agency.
  5. Hire an independent researcher.
12 Oct 2022

Are military records available to the public? ›

Access to Records, Information for the General Public:

Without the consent of the veteran or next-of-kin, the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) can only release limited information from the Official Military Personnel File (OMPF) to the general public.

What is the most requested item from The National Archives? ›

Most Requested
  • Declaration of Independence.
  • The Constitution.
  • The Bill of Rights.
  • World War II Photos.
  • Census Records.

How do I find pictures of deceased relatives? ›

13 Websites for Finding Old Family Photos
  2. AncientFaces.
  3. DeadFred.
  4. Denver Public Library.
  5. Digital Public Library of America.
  6. FamilySearch.
  7. Flickr.
  8. Library of Congress.

Are photos 100 years old public domain? ›

Virtually every original prints of historical photographs published before January 1923 is now in the public domain. This means that anyone possessing an original image from 1922 or before can copy, prepare derivative works, distribute, or display the photograph without needing to obtain permission.


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