BUILDING ON THE PAST – Architect Ancestors

Was your ancestor an architect?

The library at the Royal Institute of British Architects could help you find out more about them. The interior of the building at 66 Portland Place, London is worth the trip alone.  Wide sweeping staircases (lifts available) lead up to the library floor.

Usual rules apply at the check in to the library, ID is required for signing in or if you are a member, then your RIBA card.  Laptops and phones are permitted in the rooms and several computers provide online access to the holdings.

Before you go you should check the catalogue online to ensure the information you want is available;  When you get to the library you fill in a paper slip with the details found in the online catalogue and request the document, book or photograph that you want to see.  The staff are very helpful if you are unsure.  There are many general books on the shelves which can be of help to the family historian such as the biographical dictionaries which give a resume of the works and career of the architect and the countries travelled to.

You will probably want to look at the Admission Papers of the architect as these sometimes carry further information about their works and positions held.  They are held on microfiche at the library but are easy to request; the originals are at RIBAs other library reading room at the V&A Museum library.  There are about 300 papers which were missed out accidentally when scanning the documents to microfiche – and yes, the one I wanted was one of these.  However, an appointment at the V&A library can be made by email or telephone and arrangements to see the original admission papers can be made.

If you want to see a building that an ancestor designed then photographs are also held at the library at Portland Place, but these are accessible online  too at

The library is an important source for those who have architects in their family tree.  It is easy to access and use and provides information on every member of the Institute.







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