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We have the US National Archives and the UK National Archives. They are both referred to as "the National Archives." What is the most common and well understood way of distinguishing between the two?

I know that the US National Archives is technically called the National Archives and Records Administration, but that's too verbose and I don't see many people use the full name. It can be abbreviated as NARA but people often confuse that with the NRA. I most commonly hear it called "the National Archives." But the UK National Archives is also called "The National Archives."

Is it okay to say "the UK National Archives" and "the US National Archives"? Is there a better way?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

The (US) National Archives does have a guide to Citing Records in the National Archives of the United States (pdf). For paper documents, they expect you to mention which regional building it is in, and for electronic documents it should be "National Archives and Records Administration" (NARA).

Having said that, they call themselves "US National Archives" (or USNatArchives) on Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, Github and so on. So "US National Archives" (rather than National Archives US) would be an acceptable short form.

Although the UK does use "UKNatArchives" as an account name, they mainly refer to themselves as The National Archives of the UK (capital on The is important).

So to make the difference clear, I would use (words and abbreviation):

  • "US National Archives (NARA)"
  • "The National Archives of the UK (TNA)" (or maybe "The National Archives UK")

As Adrian mentioned in a comment, the archives in other English-speaking countries almost all describe which nation they are for:

  • "Archives New Zealand"
  • "National Archives of India"
  • "Library and Archives Canada"
  • "National Archives of Ireland"
  • "National Archives of Australia"
  • "National Archives of Nigeria"
  • "Kenya National Archives and Documentation Services"
  • "The Jamaica Archives and Records Department"
  • "National Archives of Fiji"
  • "National Records of Scotland"

However, South Africa has the "National Archives and Records Service (NARS)" often with no country mentioned, so should have "of South Africa" added to avoid confusion with the US one.

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Kew's recommendations for citing their documents are on the page "Citing documents in The National Archives". In particular, they say:

"In long full citation one of the following will suffice:

"The National Archives (TNA)
"The National Archives of the UK (TNA)"

Anyone who read that page some time ago, may remember references to additionally citing the names of the PRO or the HMC, which were predecessor organisations - happily this is no longer advised "as our new name is now well established nationally and internationally". (Anyone wishing to quote this thread to dispute that claim is welcome to!)

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Happily The National Archives of Australia do refer to themselves as "The National Archives of Australia". I leave the corresponding names for the rest of the English-speaking world as an exercise for the reader! –  AdrianB38 Feb 12 at 17:34

There is no alternative name for "The National Archives" in the UK. It's both the name of the organisation and its address. The usual acronym for it is TNA, and old hands might refer to "Kew".

Is confusion between NARA and NRA really an issue for genealogists in the States, if the context is clear?

However, if the acronyms won't do, I'd use:

  • The National Archives (UK), which at least keeps the proper name intact
  • The National Archives (US)
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1  
Re: NARA and NRA, no it isn't. I've never heard of anyone confusing the two, certainly not anyone genealogically inclined. I can imagine that someone who didn't know about the National Archives, and only heard the acronym spoken, might think they heard "NRA", maybe, but only the first time. –  cleaverkin Feb 19 at 0:27

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