My trip to the National Archive UK

Well, I can tell you one thing: What an odysee!!

Some weeks ago, I moved from Germany to London, UK til the end of the year. And since I found out a short while ago that my greataunt Eva Louise NICOLAUS married 1949 in Wales and emigrated on the MV GEORGIC in 1955 to Australia, of course I had a visit at the National Archive planned for my stay over here.

An overview of all my previous blogs on Eva Nicolaus can be found here: Summary Eva Louise Nicolaus

So I planned the trip for last weekend. But when I checked online on how to get there, I saw this huge warning sign that there were some construction works on my route. So I postponed.

Well, I should have done that yesterday, too 😉

Because a journey which is actually very simple turned out to quite something. Let’s take a look at the tube map:


From the middle to right and a bit to the bottom, you can find “Tower Hill Station” (where the green and the yellow line depart), that is mine. And normally I enter there, take the green “District Line”, go clockwise and exit at “Kew Gardens”. The National Archive UK is in Kew, in the west of London. That would take roughly 40 minutes.

But when I arrived at Tower Hill Station, the doors were locked and there were some nice helpful people from the tube telling the people how they would get now where they wanted. When I told the lady, I wanted to go to Kew Gardens I just got a “oh gosh”. Well, not really motivating..

Plan B: walk back one station to Aldgate, taking the yellow circle line, go counter clockwise all the way to Hammersmith (that’s three quarter around) and change for the green District Line to Kew Gardens. Worked quite well, till I came to Hammersmith. Guess what.. no tube service into my direction. Only Busses.. so I had my first trip in one of those London Doubledeckers and after two hours in total (in words: TWO) I arrived in Kew at the National Archive.

And I have to say, a really welcoming sight, surrounded by a little park with artifical lakes.. not the most beautiful building though 😉

IMG_1618 IMG_1616 IMG_1606

Directly at the entrance in the lobby you find an information desk, where really nice people are helping “newbies” like me.



First way is over to the lockers. Whatever you don’t need for your research gets locked in there.


Everything you do need gets placed in a transparent bag which you carry around in the archives. And like everywhere: no food and no drinks in the research areas – and please, pencils only – no ink.

Next way is upstairs to the “How to start” counter. There I told the nice person helping out the visitors why I was there and what I expected to find:

My greataunt Eva Louise Matthis née NICOLAUS born either 1898 or 1902 married 1949 John Percival PHILIPS in Wales and emigrated to Australia via the MV GEORGIC in 1955. So I was hoping for imigrating or emigrating records, anything.

And of course I told him that I was a total newbie when it comes to research on the “island” and that this would be my first trip to the National Archive. He was very nice and took the time to sit down with my at one of the many PCs to show me what I could find being already digitalized.

The National Archive is actually working together with Find My Past. So from the National Archive entry screen you search the FMP documents. As I said I was hoping for incoming and outgoing records. There was nothing imigration records for the time period I was looking for, but I found her on the passenger lists from 1955. I already had found her on the Australian incoming lists on the website of the Australian National Archive, but only as a transcribed record. Here I found the image of the english passenger lists which provided me with a very essential piece of information I didn’t have yet. Her birthdate!

Eva was born on April 11, 1902 (and not 1898 as I thought so far).

And then I did the dumbest newbie mistake – I had forgotten my USB stick to download images. So I took out my smartphone, took pictures from the screen and did it the oldfashioned way – transcribe Barbara, transcribe! 😉


This record gave me one more piece of information. When emigrating, Eva presented an UK passport. Which means, I will be back soon to read through the “Naturalisation certificates” to find her application records. I can actually order those online in advance, get a reader ticket at the Archive and get going. – I will let you know how it works out.

Eva und Else Nicolaus

Eva und Else Nicolaus

So, unfortunately it is true what I feared. On this photo I always identified Eva as the older sister. But with Else being born 1900 and Eva now given with 1902, she is actually the baby sister.

And a nice coincidence, right now the National Archive is hosting the Family Research Centre London from the Mormons. I was hoping for some church records from Pembroke where Eva married. But everything they had was about 100 years too old 😉

Shortly before 5 pm (when the Archive closes) I packed my stuff and spent the last minutes in the bookstore.


Could I please have a “genealogy / family research” section as big as this one in a German archive? It actually goes on on the left wall outside of this picture.

Shortly before 7 pm I arrived back home safely.

My summary: I am really impressed. They cannot be blamed for the trouble of getting there. No fees for using the Archive, no fees for using the lockers (not even change needed), opening hours at the saturday from 9am til 5pm, very spacy, very light, nice friendly staff, very well equipped when it comes to research area and screens.

I will definetly be back!


4 thoughts on “My trip to the National Archive UK

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