Sources for researching black and minority ethnic histories

This guide brings together a selection of sources for researching roots outside of the UK. Please refer to our Family History Starter Kit for general family history hints and tips.

We have attempted to separate sources where there is a distinction between cultural heritages, but there is some overlap in themes and as a result there is some duplication across sources. The information on this page is evolving and will be added to over time.

The National Archives

The National Archives (TNA) has a guide to Black British social and political history in the 20th century. This may be helpful for finding records relating to the experience and influence of black British people in the 20th century. The guide has some general guidance, signposting to sources at TNA and other archives.

TNA also has a resource page that can be used to conduct a key word search. Keywords that might be helpful in your search include: ‘immigration’ or ‘naturalisation’.

The National Archives has produced a series of resources for school use. We have included some of these resources below as they provide relevant background and onward signposting to assist your own research:

Archived exhibitions from TNA that might be of interest:


This BBC resource has an informative guide to getting started with African-Caribbean family history. The web page has been archived but much of the information is still relevant:

Researching African-Caribbean Family History (BBC)

The BBC similarly provides information and guidance on uncovering the history of your African ancestors: BBC - Family History - Africa.

Asian heritage

BBC Family History has a number of pages relating to researching Asian family history. These web pages have been archived but much of the information is still relevant:

Tracing your Asian roots in Britain (BBC)

You may also want to:

From Hampshire Archives Trust

Dr Cheryl Butler’s talk titled ‘Ascupart’s Children – Black History in the greater Southampton region 1500-1900’ draws on archival material in Southampton and Hampshire.

Library of Congress (LOC)

The Library of Congress has resources for researching African American histories: African American Genealogy Resources (

Understanding and interpreting outdated terminology

Many historic sources will contain outdated and offensive terminology. Knowing what these words are and how to interpret them can be helpful when looking at archive documents.

The Cultural Heritage Terminology Network (CHTN) has undertaken significant work to provide a glossary of terms that might be found in historic documents. The CHTN has been designed for those working in the heritage sector to improve cataloguing and tackle the ongoing use of outdated and offensive words in our catalogues. However, knowledge of these terms can be useful for family historians.

You can download and view elements of its Inclusive Terminology Glossary from Google Drive.

Have you used a source that was particularly useful for tracing your roots outside of the UK? Let us know, and we can update our list of resources.