Archives in the Celtic Nations

Archives in The Celtic Nations

Archives in the Celtic Nations

If you’re planning an ancestral trip and have Celtic roots, visiting the archives of the Celtic Nations should be on your list. These archives are a treasure trove of rich and fascinating history and can be found in several locations, including Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, and the Isle of Man.

In these archives, you’ll discover and learn about the Celtic people’s unique and diverse cultures, traditions, and customs. Take a journey through time and explore the depth and breadth of Celtic history and heritage in the archives of the Celtic Nations.

Online research can only get you so far. Only about 10% of documents are online. Once you have explored all you can online, it is time to leave your office, the basement, or your little shed in the back and step into a world of in-person-archiver.

Archives in the Celtic Nations

Archives in the Celtic Nations

All your research has been built up to being able to travel to your homeland. And it calls for a trip to the archives!

It’s not as easy as walking into the archive or library and going through files. It would be best if you had a game plan. Who are you researching? What records might you find at certain places?

Definition of an Archive?

The Society of American Archivists describes an archive as an organization that collects the records of individuals, families, or other organizations. (

The term “archive” is used to identify any organization that houses historical records. Genealogical records, memorabilia, artifacts, etc. It doesn’t need the title archive in its name.

Genealogists use archives every day to locate records about their ancestors. Not all records that are indexed or microfilmed can be found online. Sometimes archives have records you didn’t even know existed.

There are all types of archives:

  1. Colleges and Universities specialize in collections and materials related to the institution.
  2. Corporate Archives that preserve information about the business.
  3. Government Archives: Information on the local, state, and federal levels, including birth/death certificates, marriage, and legal records.
  4. Historical Societies represent the local region. Most countries have some historical or genealogical societies.
  5. Special Collections are collections of individual families in a particular area.
  6. Religious Archives are usually related to that church or parish.
  7. Museums house historically significant records of that region.

Numerous libraries have genealogy centers in them. However, research can be done at local family centers, courthouses, and cemeteries.

Research the Repository and its Holdings online.

  1. Contact the archive or library first to see their research hours and restrictions.
  2. Check the visiting hours and parking situation.
  3. Ask if there is a limit on the material you can research at a time.
  4. Check to see if they restrict what you can and cannot bring with you.
  5. Ask if they have internet access.
  6. Research online what materials they have housed there.
  7. Pay someone to assist if it is too far away.

Most facilities require you to bring identification to sign in and fill out “call slips.” Call slips are requests for specific collections.

Do they permit computers, phones, cameras, or personal scanners?

Prioritize your requests. Certain documents may require more time to explore. Keep this in mind when making your research plan.

Familiarize yourself with the policy of each establishment you are visiting.

What To Bring With You

Archives of the Celtic Nations
  1. Laptop
  2. Charger
  3. Pen & Paper
  4. Notebook
  5. Mobile device
  6. Charging & Power cables
  7. USB Flash drives
  8. Digital Voice Recorder
  9. Headphones
Know the Terminology

Transcribing is making an exact, word-for-word copy of the record.

An Abstract is a summary of the most essential details. Keep in mind that these are the author’s ideas of what the most important details are.

Citing the Sources

It is so crucial that you cite your sources thoroughly. Answer the Who, What, How, Where, and When for your sources.

Who does this record relate to?

What kind of record is this?

How can I find it again?

Where did I get this record?

When was the document created?

Be as thorough as you can. You may have questions later and find this information helpful if you need to call the archive to ask more questions. The person helping you will thank you.

Be as thorough as you can. You may have questions later and find this information helpful if you need to call the archive to ask more questions. The person helping you will thank you.
Libraries and Governmental Facilities

These places are laxer for what you can bring in. And like before, call the facility to see their policy about bringing certain things in.

Create a mobile research office. If you do much research, you already have a mobile office setup. Traveling overseas might limit what you bring with you. Even if you cannot get these items to the archive, you will have them work on what you found that day.

Where Do I Start at the Archives?

Archives of the Celtic Nations

The first step is narrowing your search and knowing where to find records. Always start at the local level. You may know what country and region Uncle George lived in; start there.

When the local level archives don’t have what you need, go to the next level. All 50 states in the United States have a state archive. All of them have a website and a brick-and-mortar building.

Be Specific
  • • Narrow down the area where your ancestors lived. Be specific about the county or parish they lived in. What city did they live in?
  • • Locate archives in the area and obtain contact information.
  • • Visit with the archivist, librarian, clerk, and county historian and educate yourself about what records are available in the facility.
  • • Bookmark the websites of each archive.
  • • Go to the website and dig; click on every tab. Available records are not always in the logical spot.
  • • Some state archives have county pages listing records they have.
  • • State archives sometimes will be able to help you locate local archives.
Researching The Records – Types of Records  
Archives of the Celtic Nations

Digging around in the archives can be very educational. There are records that you probably wouldn’t think of every day.

Manuscript Collections: A manuscript collection could be as small as one box or 200 boxes. Families of deceased loved ones sometimes donate collections to these organizations. These collections contain documents, photographs, or artifacts related to one person, family, or organization. You will need to ask the archivist if they are available.

Fonds Manuscripts: A collection of overseas and Canadian manuscripts. Ask for them.

Vertical Files: The vertical is filing cabinets that house these records. Sometimes, it is called Subject Files. These collections are miscellaneous documents that are cataloged by surname or subject name. It could be newspaper articles, family group sheets, photos, copies of family Bible pages, diaries, family genealogy, etc.

Miscellaneous Records

Loose Records: Considered “working papers” to the records recorded in bound volumes. Sometimes, information and discoveries for the genealogist are not typically found in bound volume records.

Scrapbooks: Scrapbooks can be like a time capsule, compiled by individuals, and contain one-of-a-kind records. Can you imagine finding a scrapbook from Aunt Elsa? What a story it could tell. I am all for being a voice for the dead.

School Records: Local schools, universities, and boards have valuable genealogical information. They include everything from elementary education through college, professional school, military academies, and special education training.

Voting or Election Records: These can contain poll tax records, voter registration cards, a list of poll workers, and possible candidate records.

Photographs: Many archives will have collections of photos donated by families or other organizations. These collections house photos of people, buildings, schools, events in the community, churches, and others may be contained in these collections.

Unprocessed Records: Some records haven’t been processed yet and can be sitting on shelves waiting for them to be scanned, indexed, or cataloged. Ask the archivist if you can peruse them.

Talk to the Archivist

Making a connection with the Archivist can make your research easier. Ask about what type of records they have and if you can dig through them.

Ask questions about how to search for certain things. They are there to help you. Like you, they have a love of genealogy and records. We all love research and giving our ancestors a voice in the past.

Online Archives – Includes over 7 million records describing archival materials, bringing together information about historical documents, personal papers, family histories, and more.

With over 1,500 different archival institutions represented, helps researchers look for primary source materials in archives, libraries, museums, and historical societies.” is mainly for the United States. However, you can search for the Celtic countries, and they will populate some places. is a nonprofit library of millions of free books, movies, software, websites, and more, including a list of European libraries. It’s fun to explore, click on everything, and it’s an easy way to kill an afternoon.

Archives in the Celtic Nations

Archives in Scotland
Archives in the Celtic Nations

The National Records of Scotland (NRS) is a Non-Ministerial Department of the Scottish Government. They aim to collect, preserve, and produce information about Scotland’s people and history and make it available to inform current and future generations.

The ScotlandsPeople website is the official Scottish Government site for searching government records and archives. Hundreds of thousands each year apply for copies of official certificates and research family history, biography, local history, and social history. 

Archives in Ireland

National Archives of Ireland – Any member of the public possessing a valid reader’s ticket is permitted to access the reading room of the National Archives.

National Archive of Ireland Citizen Information – Researchers and members of the public can view original documents and records from departments of state, the courts, public bodies, and many private collections.

Archives in Wales

The National Library of Wales – Situated in Aberystwyth, the library is on the Ceredigion coast. The National Library of Wales aims to make our culture and heritage accessible to all to learn, research, and enjoy.

Archives Wales – Library and archives.

Archives for Cornwall

Cornwall Council Kresen Kernow – Built in the shell of the former Redruth Brewery, Kresen Kernow is a state-of-the-art new archive center. It has 14 miles of shelving to store over 1.5 million of Cornwall’s treasured archives; the center has exhibition spaces, learning rooms, and a digitization suite. Visitors can carry out research, pop in and browse, or take part in our varied activity program featuring workshops, courses, and fun family events.

Archives in Isle of Man

Manx National Heritage – Manx history, culture, language, folklore, archaeology, and landholding are some subjects that can be investigated using their printed and archival collections. It contains assorted books, pamphlets, and Manx newspapers.

Isle of Man Public Records – Houses many collections of records.

As much fun as it is to sit at home and surf the internet for ancestors’ records, going out to the archives of the Celtic Nations can be just as fun. It can be just as addicting to dig through old files, look at old photographs, and imagine their lives.

As a not-so-professional family historian and genealogist, I feel strongly about giving the dead a voice. Everyone has a story; everyone has a right to be remembered.

Final Thoughts

As much as the internet has made accessing information easier, only some information is available online. This is especially true for historical records that have not been digitized or uploaded to the web. For this reason, if you are a beginner genealogist or a family historian, it is essential to know that you may have to dig through physical archives, libraries, or family historical societies to find the information you need.

The Archives in the Celtic Nations can be treasure troves of information that you can’t find anywhere else and can provide valuable insights into your family’s history and ancestry. It may take some extra effort, but it is worth it if you are serious about uncovering your family’s past.

Go to the archives, get out of your “genealogy cave,” and learn your family story. You will be glad you did. Happy meandering. Slànte Mhath!

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