Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Exploring National Archives

Many of the world's national archives are becoming more proactive in putting at least part of their collections online. These resources can sometimes be helpful to genealogists when there seems to be few other records available from a particular country. Every country has its own rules for access to archived items and in many cases, gaining access to even some of the records requires a personal visit to the archives. As with any record repository, if you contemplate a visit, you should make sure that the facility is open on the days of your visit and that you have complied with all of the requirements for entry.

One important factor to keep in mind is that the various archives, even those with online collections, have a variety of rules regarding access to their collections. Some of the countries make copyright claims to all their government documents and other allow copies to be made without such claims. The National Archives of Australia is a good example of country where many records have been digitized but the country claims copyright to the records. Here is the statement from their website:
The National Archives of Australia supports and encourages the dissemination and exchange of information. All data and other material produced by the National Archives constitutes Commonwealth copyright. The National Archives reserves the right to set out the terms and conditions for the use of such material. 
Save for the content on this website supplied by third parties, the National Archives logo and the Commonwealth Coat of Arms, the National Archives has applied the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia Licence. The National Archives asserts the right to be recognised as author of the original material in the following manner:

© Commonwealth of Australia (National Archives of Australia) 2013.
I strongly suggest that you investigate the extent to which such claims may affect your use of any of the online material available from this and any other archive.

Wikipedia has a rather extensive list of national archives. You might be surprised at what is and what is not online from the various archives. For example, the National Archives of the Czech Republic or Národní archiv has digitized all volumes of the Registers of Births, Marriages, and deaths of Jewish communities deposited in the National Archives. In the course of 2014 they have been gradually made accessible on: One challenge is that the language used on the website may be outside of those supported by Google Translate although some websites may have a provision to be read in English.

Some of the national archives, such as the National Archives of Estonia or Rahvusarhiiv, have specific resources for genealogists such as digitized, online copies of Lutheran and Orthodox Church records from the parish registers. In this case and in others, you may have to create an account.  In contrast, the General State Archives of Greece or Τα Γενικά Αρχεία του Κράτους (ΓΑΚ) has only a very limited online collection.

I suggest that you may find that a trip to the country of your ancestor's origin may include a stop at the country's national archives.


  1. I think an example of one of the best national archives out there is the National Archives of Norway with their site at

    their records reside in their "Digital Archive" at

    Most of the site has been translated to English which is accessed by just clicking the link in the top right hand corner of every page.

    They have scanned and posted, within privacy right limitations, every microfilm of parish records that is available. Even better, they have a large community of volunteers and archive employees that are working on transcribing all the records. These transcriptions are usually better than Family Search's indexes.

    They also have census record transcriptions, emigration records, court documents, and more. There are dozens of research helps such as maps.

    It's all free and you don't need an account. I have never run across any copyright notices so I can't comment on that.

    They also have discussion boards (which you do need a free account to use) where I have asked questions and gotten a lot a help.

    You will like, based on some of your posts, that in their "Select Sources" section, one chooses type of record, place of record, time period, location and then are shown what records have been transcribed and are searchable.

    Your only complaint will be that the archives are among the 80% of Scandinavian researchers that record place names wrong. All the records are grouped under their modern place name. For example, all the records for Hordaland are found under Hordaland and not Hǫrðaland, Bergen, Bergenhus, Søndre Bergenhus, or Hordaland depending on the year.

    I have run across many people who are trying to do research in Norway who have never heard of this archive's site. It is alway the first thing I show them.

    1. You are absolutely correct. Both Norway and Denmark have excellent and extensive online resources for free. Sweden has excellent resources also but from paid websites.