How do I search for archives?

Are you wondering if we have a specific archive or are you looking for specific information? Then you should know that archive searches are the reverse of online searches. You must first find information about which authorities or businesses handled cases with the information you are looking for.

1 - Arkivportalen, our online catalogue

The National Archives does not know exactly what information we have about individuals and individual cases. Information is spread across the archives of public and private enterprises. In order to find specific information, we must first find out where the information was created and processed. Remember that an archive cannot be seen as an encyclopedia. There is no guarantee that you will find what you are looking for, and searching can be time-consuming.

You can search for archives in our online catalogue, the Arkivportalen. Archival searches on paper or scanned paper differ from the searches you do in a search engine:

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You can see which archives have been submitted

On the Arkivportalen, you can see which institutions have handed in their archives, and you get information about where these archives are kept. The National Archives and a number of other archives and museums use the online catalogue to publish information about their archives.

You can see what an archive contains

On the Arkivportalen you can search and browse digital archive catalogues. An archive catalog is a systematic record of an archive, in which each individual piece of archive – archive box, protocol, digital unit or similar – is listed. The contents of the unit are described more or less detailed.

You can order archival material for use in the reading room

At the Arkivportalen you can prepare and order archival material for review in our reading rooms.

2 - How to search on the Arkivportalen

In the search box on the Arkivportalen’s front page, you enter what you want to search for. The name of the archive creator is a good starting point. The online catalogue will search the words you enter in the search field, so it is possible that you will get many hits that do not seem relevant. Click on one of the search suggestions or use emoticons to search for exact phrases. A detailed description of the search functions can be found on the Arkivportalen’s own help pages


3 - How to examine the archive directory

With keyword searches, you can get hits at various levels, both in the archive itself, series or archive pieces (protocols or boxes) in an archive. Archives are organized according to a hierarchy. Where a book is organized by titles, chapters and contents, an archive will have a descriptive name for the archive, series and pieces (boxes, folders).

The drawings below show whether you have found an archive or a box. Archives are marked with a drawing of a grey-coloured filing cabinet, series are marked with a drawing of brown boxes and pieces are marked with a single brown box.

From the hit list, click on the archive you want to look at in more detail. You can hover over the file name and a PDF icon will appear. If you press this, you can download the entire catalogue.

You can also click further into the contents of the archives by pressing "Hierarchy". You will then get a list of all the series registered in the archive in question. You can click further into various series and the pieces there. In many cases, you can click on to folder level in the various archive pieces.


4 - This is how you can access the archives

When you have found the archive you are looking for on the Arkivportalen, you can order the boxes you want via the website. You must then create your own user and log in, you will find instructions on the Arkivportalen.


You can also attend our reading rooms for guidance and order archival material upon attendance.

Through our telephone guidance service, you can get advice and help with general questions related to the archives.

5 - Did you find what you were looking for?

Note that the archive for a record creator can be "several archives" on the Arkivportalen. Changes in the record creators name and tasks that are moved between different entities can create challenges. The same applies to municipal mergers and new county names. References in the handbooks for users of the regional state archives and the National Archives will be helpful. See the links at the bottom of the page.

What is the difference between the Arkivportalen and the Digital Archive?

The Arkivportalen contains overviews of all archives, but only a fraction of the archives have been digitized and made available on the Digital Archive. If there is something you cannot find on the Digital Archive, you can use the Arkivportalen to search the archive overviews there. Information can be found even if it is not on the internet.