Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Foreign Office hoarding historic files in secret archive

There was an interesting article in the Guardian newspaper last Friday, accusing the Foreign Office of hoarding more than a million historic files at a facility in Buckinghamshire. Many of the documents apparently date back to the 19th century. According to the article they "document in fine detail British foreign relations throughout two world wars, the cold war, withdrawal from empire and entry into the common market". The article states that under the Public Records Acts, they should have been transferred to the National Archives at Kew and made public after 30 years. The full article is at

The Guardian has previously disclosed that over 66,000 Ministry of Defence files are also being held at a warehouse in Derbyshire, some from Northern Ireland - that article is at

Amongst the Foreign Office files believed to be held in Buckinghamshire are:

Files on Rhodesia
Files about KGB spies Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean
Files on Hong Kong
Nazi persecution case files
The United States
Cold war files
Papers on The treaty of Paris, which concluded the Crimean War (1856)

The full inventory of Foreign Office files held in Buckinghamshire is listed at

Of specific interest to the family history community will be a vaguely described collection in Bay 22 of the facility: "Birth, death and marriage registers" - a collection taking up 20.88 metres of shelf space.

From where?

Someone at the Foreign Office not only has some explaining to do, but it looks like some kind of plan is in place to get these documents to the National Archives asap, which now has a mammoth task ahead to work out what to do with it all.


My latest book, Discover Scottish Civil Registration Records, is now available from (print) and (ebook), whilst Tracing Your Irish Family History on the Internet is available at My next Pharos Scottish course, Scotland 1750-1850: Beyond the OPRs, starts Nov 13th - see


  1. Indeed - it may simply be duplicate BMD material from stuff already known to be in existence, but if so, it's a hell of a lot of it!