Finding your records
This page discusses the first step in accessing your records – finding out who is most likely to have them.
Your care records
Generally speaking your care files will be held by the local authority or voluntary organisation that looked after you. If you were in care more recently and lived in a private children’s home then the owners of the home may also have records about you. If the local authority or organisation still exists, then you should make your initial request to them.
If you grew up in a local authority area that doesn’t exist anymore because the boundaries have changed then you will need to find out which council ‘inherited’ your records. This will depend on when and where you were in care. Many boundaries and council responsibilities were changed in 1974 and in 1996. For example, if you were in care in York before 1974 or after 1996 your records may be held by City of York Council, but if you were in care in York between 1974 and 1996 your records may be held by North Yorkshire County Council.
Some voluntary organisations and children’s homes have now closed. Some were absorbed into larger organisations and in these cases your records may be held by that organisation. In other cases records may have been deposited with an archive. You can search for archived records from around the UK using The National Archives website.
If you know the name of your children’s home but not which local authority or organisation ran it, then you can search the Children’s Homes website to find out where it was.
If you were in care with more than one local authority or organisation you will need to make record requests to each one. For example, if you were taken into care by a local council and then sent to a Barnardo’s home, both the council and Barnardo’s may have records about you.
Sometimes you may be told that your records cannot be found or have been destroyed. Find out what to do if this happens.
Other records about you
Other organisations may hold records about your childhood, which can help to fill in gaps in your care records. Not all of these records may survive, but it is worth checking. You can make requests to view them under the Data Protection Act in the same way as you request to access your care records.
For medical records you can make a request to both your GP and to any hospitals or clinics which you attended as a child.
Your current GP should have any records that have been made about you, and should keep these for the duration of your time at the practice. If you move GP the records should be transferred. However, you may find that there are gaps as earlier records may have been lost.
Hospital records are less likely to survive, but it is still worth asking. Generally speaking, childhood medical records should be kept at least until you are 25 and mental health records should be retained for 20 years after your last contact. The NHS provides a list of contacts for NHS Trusts.
For education records you can make a request to the local authority where the school was or is now. You can use the data protection contact details from our care records database [link]. You may also want to contact the school directly, as well as the local archive. Many older school records have been archived. However, do keep in mind that not all individual education records have been kept.
For birth, marriage and death certificates you can make a request to the General Registry Office. You can request any certificates you like, including those of your parents and siblings, not just those relating to you personally. You can search their indexes and place an order directly online.
For criminal justice records you can make a request for information from the police. This can include information held on the police’s national database, by local forces and by the courts. You can find out more about how to do this through the Criminal Records Office. Probation service records can also be requested from the relevant Probation Trust.