Tobago Archives FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

In order to assist you in locating or receiving the information you need as quickly as possible, we’ve listed our most frequently asked questions with responses below.

What are Archives?

 The term ‘archives’, has multiple definitions. It can refer to:

  1. Records that are preserved permanently because of their enduring value, that is because of the information they contain or their value as evidence of an event or transaction. The format of these records does not matter; they can be medieval parchment documents, letters, minutes, registers, maps, architectural drawings, photographs, digital files, films, and sound recordings. They can be centuries old or just a week old.
  2. The place- the building or part of the building- where archival material is kept, (also called archival repository).
  3. An organization responsible for the care and the control of archival material. Such organizations may include governments, businesses, religious institutions and professional bodies.

Who can use the Tobago Archives?

Anyone with a research interest – scholars, students, amateur historians, genealogists, journalists, writers, filmmakers, teachers, pensioners, etc. can use the records of the Tobago Archives.  Children under the age of sixteen, however, will not be permitted to use the archival records unless they are accompanied by an adult who will take responsibility for the safe use of the archives.

Can staff at the Archives carry out research for me?

We can undertake a basic search to identify where records might be found. However, we do not conduct in-depth research on behalf of others. In-depth research usually requires an extended period of searching in multiple collections. Researchers are advised to visit the archives to perform their own research. Persons who are unable to visit the Archives to carry out their research in person should use the services of an independent professional researcher.

Are archival records available online?

 Not yet.  We are working to have some of our digitized records available on-line soon.  While some of our records are already digitized, the vast majority of archives are not digitized and must be consulted in-person at the research area of the Tobago Archives.

I’m trying to learn more about my family’s history. What kind of information do you have?

Possibly-We have several censuses, registers, reports, listings, and other official archival records which may contain information about your ancestors. Some of these archival records contain information such as individual names, profession or trade, country of origin, place of abode or settlement, plantation name, information about births, marriages or death, civil servant promotions or dismissals, land ownership, etc. If your relative was famous or moderately famous (e.g. a politician, civil servant) you may have greater success finding information about them.

Why can’t I use a pen to take notes at the Archives?

Pens should never be used near original archival records. Despite good intentions, pens may bleed, leave marks, and cause permanent damage to records. Ink markings are hard (and in some cases, impossible) to remove from often already fragile archival material.

Pencils are much safer as unintentional marks can be erased.  A pencil can be supplied if needed. Electronic devices such as laptops and tablets can also be used for note-taking.

Can private individuals borrow archival records?

No. Unlike Libraries, the lending of original archival records for private home research use is prohibited.  Archival records may be used in the reference area by private individuals during our opening hours. In special circumstances, archival records may be loaned to responsible offices and institutions or professional societies for exhibitions.

Can I use my digital camera/phone/tablet to take photos or personal scanner in the Archives?

Researchers may use digital cameras or similar devices, such as phones or tablets, to create a limited number of personal reference copies. You are allowed to take photographs of records on their own, with some limitations. Please always notify staff before taking photographs of records. Records must be handled carefully, flash must be turned off and the use of the camera or other devices must not disturb others.

Researchers are not permitted to use personal scanners or to photocopy any archival records.

Do you repair damaged documents for private individuals?

No. Damaged or fragile records are repaired by persons who are trained in paper conservation.  We do not have a trained conservator on staff and only perform minor repairs for our in-house collection.

 Can I donate records to the Archives?

The Archives accepts donations of records that fit into our acquisition policy.

We welcome donations of records, photographs, maps, historic newspapers, personal papers of renowned Tobago personalities, politicians, or other influential persons and other material that documents Tobago’s history. Those wishing to donate records should contact the Archives Manager at 

ALL other questions

If your question is not included, please send it to, or phone us at 868-639-2256 (ext. 1205/1220) during our opening hours.