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British and Irish Genealogical Reference Centre

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British and Irish Genealogical Reference Centre

If you have any contributions or suggestions etc. to make please join the project and add the information, looking carefully at the structure of the project and adding the information in the most relevant position, using the formatting that is in place. Alternatively message me or start a discussion linked to this project with your ideas.

The aim of this project is to offer advice on what is available for British and irish genealogical research (mostly post 17th C) and to build a comprehensive list of resources available, both online and elsewhere.

See Random Acts of GENI Kindness - Britain for small look-ups.



// You need to ensure that any photographs added to Geni profiles or projects are not copyrighted, or that you have permission to use the image. Apart from Wikimedia Commons (but read the individual attribution notices for an image before you download/use it), two good sources of copyright free images for the UK (with attribution to the source) are British Library - flickr and Geograph

In the "Attribution" field for an image you need to include -

1) the photographer's name,
2) the license info, and
3) a link to where it came from.

Proof - The Board for Certification of Genealogists defines the standard of proof this way:

"Proof is a fundamental concept in genealogy. In order to merit confidence, each conclusion about an ancestor must have sufficient credibility to be accepted as "proved." Acceptable conclusions, therefore, meet the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS). The GPS consists of five elements:

  • reasonably exhaustive research;
  • complete, accurate citations to the source or sources of each information item;
  • tests—through processes of analysis and correlation—of all sources, information items, and evidence;
  • resolution of conflicts among evidence items; and
  • a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion.

"Each element contributes to a conclusion's credibility in a different way, described in the table, but all the elements are necessary to establish proof."

Reference -

The areas covered are specifically -

  • England
  • Scotland
  • Wales
  • Northern Ireland
  • Ireland - resources included for Ireland
  • Channel Islands

Notes on place names


  • Great Britain = England, Scotland, and Wales
  • UK from when it came into existence in 1801 = England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland (and the full name is the “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”)
  • England = the part of the British Isles that is England

England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland make up the United Kingdom from 1801.

The UK is considered to be a country, but its components are nations (or previous Kingdoms) ruled by the government of the Queen which has powers over the United Kingdom of Great Britain (England + Wales + Scotland) and Northern Ireland.

The United Kingdom is a country and a state, comprising several nations which are called countries but are not acknowledged as such by the international community.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the full name of the country. England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Island are "kingdoms" within the United Kingdom forming Britain (the largest island) and Great Britain (which includes the Scottish islands).

The webpage in The alt.usage.english explains the meaning of the various terminology associated with the United Kingdom.

"England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland have all been regarded for centuries as nations, and are still correctly referred to as such. This has nothing to do with legal status. England, Scotland and Ireland all were once Kingdoms, but no longer are (since 1707 in the case of England and Scotland, 1800 in the case of Ireland). Wales was not a Kingdom but a Principality, and is sometimes still referred to as such".
"The correct and careful use of such terms as "United Kingdom" in any context other than the strictly legal is a recent development, dating from about the 1930s, when modern Scottish nationalism became a live political issue. Anything written before that date, even by historians, is likely to use "England"


Curators who can help and advise you.

Using GENi name fields.

The following guidelines were provided by previous GENi head, Noah Tutak:

  • As much as possible, the current fields should be used as they are set-up (labelled).
  • Maiden name/Birth Surname should be maiden name and last name should be last name.
  • Where a married woman kept her maiden name, that should also be her last name.
  • In cases where a woman legally changed her name to a different last name, that should be used in the last name field.

On profiles where there is only one manager, fields can be used to suit individual preferences. If that profile is subsequently merged with another then the guidelines outlined here should be applied. However to avoid Data Conflicts occurring upon merging following of these Conventions is recommended.

Forename & Middle Name Fields

See Middle Name Options illustrated

  • There are two fields for given names - First and Middle. It is recommended that you always use the fields as they are designated.

Please note...

You can set your Display Preferences to reflect how you wish to see names on the tree.

See an image illustrating your options - Preference setting examples

There is an option in the name preference settings to ignore middle names. It is suggested that you set these NOT to ignore middle names as profiles are filled in both ways by users and valuable information may be hidden from you if your preferences are set otherwise. Having the names entered either way does not affect the search tool.

Do NOT put titles in the Forename field – rather add them to the Display Name Field. Using these in the first name fields make searches and matches more difficult.

Naming Conventions

Refer to Coalition for the Standardisation of Geni Naming Conventions and Kings of Ancient Britannia for guidance.

In Scotland pre 1707 women did not use married names and were always referred to by their maiden/birth name. In the period between 1707 (Union) to 1841/1855 (Census and Registration) it is more likely that women used birth names (maiden names) but needs to be supported by sources. Post 1855 married names became more commonly used in documents.

Principles of Genealogical Research

Society of Genealogists

  • Accuracy and honesty of all personal research and of work published, promoted or distributed to others.
  • Provision of clear evidence from primary sources to support all conclusions and statements of fact.
  • Use of original sources and records (or surrogate images of originals) to gather key information.
  • Citation and recording of sources used so that others may also evaluate the evidence.
  • Logical and reasoned development of family links with each step proved from valid evidence before further deductions are made.
  • Investigation and analysis of all possible solutions and of contradictory evidence with each alternative hypothesis examined and tested.
  • Qualification of less certain conclusions as probable or possible so that others are not misled
  • Acceptance of the possibility that a solution may not be found and acknowledgement of circumstances in which this occurs
  • Awareness of gaps in the availability of and information from sources at all levels.
  • Receptiveness to new information and to informed comment which may challenge earlier conclusions.
  • Acknowledgement and attribution of research done by others and use of such work as a secondary source only.
  • Evidence only becomes proof through a reasoned and logical analysis and argument capable of convincing others that the conclusion is valid.

See side bar for linked projects

To participate in any project you do need to first be a collaborator.

icn_favorite.gif Please Note

This a reference project and so no profiles are to be added unless they are people of Genealogical importance!

Summary of Contents

  • General Non-Specific On-line Resources (all record types)
  • Web pages and Forums offering Communal Assistance
  • Sites offering Guidance and links to other webpages
  • Sites requiring Membership or Payment
  • Web Pages where Resources are NOT online - visit required
  • Online Genealogical Trees
  • One Name Studies

Published Genealogies

Reference Books

Types of Records Available

  • Civil Registration - Birth, Marriage and Death Certificates;
  • Parish Registers
  • Baptisms
  • Marriages
  • Deaths and Burials
  • Census Returns
  • Wills
  • Monumental Inscriptions
  • Bastardy Papers
  • Church Minute Books
  • Re-Settlement records
  • Workhouse Records
  • Military Records
  • Newspapers
  • Family Bibles
  • Oral History
  • Passenger Lists
  • Occupational Records
  • Other/Sundry Records
  • Marriage Licences
  • Obituaries
  • Trade Directories
  • School and University Records
  • Landowner Records
  • Property Valuation lists
  • Apprenticeship Records
  • Passport and Immigration Records
  • Historic Hospital Records
  • Proceedings of the Old Bailey
  • Adoption
  • Divorce

Geographical Information

  • Counties
  • Cities

Keeping Records

Useful Information

  • British Abroad
  • Dates/Timelines
  • Occupations
  • Latin words
  • Abbreviations
  • British Genealogical Societies and Family History Groups
  • Specialist Areas of Research
  • REGIONAL Online Guides and Resources
  • Commercial Family History Source Suppliers

Peerage and Heritage


Earlier Research

General Non-Specific On-line Resources (all record types)

  • Isle of Wight Family History Society - BMD Index start
  • ScotlandsPeople Scottish census records, Scottish wills, birth certificates and death certificates - a comprehensive choice of Scottish records to bring your Scotland ancestry to life. The indexes can be searched but documents need to be paid for. The indexes do supply basic information - dates and names.
  • Scottish Indexes - some records need to be bought, e.g.Prison records, but there are a lot of free transcripts available
  • Irish Genealogy
  • Irish Genealogy Records
  • CIGO Since its foundation CIGO has been at the forefront of dialogue and consultation with State agencies throughout Ireland on all matters of relevance to genealogists, such as:
  • Continuous effort to improve public service at the General Register Office Dublin (GROI) and other state record repositories, by initiating discussions with the responsible authorities.
  • Constructive criticism of impending legislation. We were to the fore in obtaining changes to the Civil Registration Act 2004; and in particular we lobbied successfully for changes to the Bill providing for fuller information to be recorded in all future death registrations in Ireland.
  • Official membership of advisory bodies, such as the users’ groups of Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) and General Register Office Northern Ireland (GRONI).
  • Availing of opportunities to influence government policy in relation to genealogy. In recent times we have presented submissions to the National Library of Ireland (NLI), GROI, Registry of Deeds (ROD), GRONI. In relation to GRONI our involvement was successful in getting a reversal in draft policy set to deny access to many civil (vital) records.
  • Other activities include our publication series under the general title ‘Exploring Irish Genealogy’, which have proved very popular both inside and outside Ireland. For example number two in the series is Irish Civil Registration – Where Do I Start?, and is the first publication ever to deal with the subject of Irish vital records in such depth and breadth – a vital tool for anyone approaching the subject. Details of our publications, and those of our member organisations, are available at our web bookstore.
  • The Dictionary of Ulster Biography
  • LDS Family Search - records span billions of names across hundreds of collections—including birth, marriage, death, probate, land, military, IGI extracted, and more. Not UK Isolated - worldwide.
  • The National Archives online records - home to millions of documents, files and images that cover 1,000 years of history. Find out how we can help your research, through guides, tutorials, and podcasts.
  • British History on Line British History Online is the digital library containing some of the core printed primary and secondary sources for the medieval and modern history of the British Isles. Created by the Institute of Historical Research and the History of Parliament Trust, we aim to support academic and personal users around the world in their learning, teaching and research.
  • Family Deeds provides a large amount of free online information to help you with your family history using information contained in their collection of old deeds and documents. They have information on many documents with new documents being uploaded regularly.
  • Irish Family History Research hundreds of rare and, in most cases, exclusive searchable databases, as well as other essential Irish genealogy resources covering every Irish County.
  • Parliament Historical Records - searchable and
  • The History of Parliament - invaluable if your ancestor was an MP.
  • Hansard, the Official Report of debates in Parliament.
  • The London Gazette the Official Newspaper of Record for the United Kingdom. (Also Edinburgh and Belfast Gazette available from the same link).The London Gazette has been professionally indexed since the early nineteenth century. This web site provides two access options:
  • You can browse the indexes page by page - identify the year and volume, use the contents page to locate the section (for example Honours or Army Appointments) and trace the subject alphabetically by surname or relevant title.
  • You can download the entire file which can be keyword searched - although many of the files are very large.

Registered Users (FREE) can save searches and can perform the same search on a regular basis or return to previous search results at a later date.
Information in the London Gazette of particular use to the researcher includes -

  • change of name by deed poll
  • naturalisation
  • civil service appointments (including nationalised industries)
  • military, judicial, government and ecclesiastical appointments
  • honours and medals
  • corporate information
  • bankruptcy/insolvency
  • death

Web pages and Forums offering Communal Assistance

  • Generous Genealogists Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness - You can help to make a greater British Presence!

Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (RAOGK) was established in 1999 as a resource for networking among researchers. RAOGK links researchers who need documents from a distant location with others able to obtain them.
Genealogical researchers have always had the need for documentation to make progress in their family history research. Before the Internet, it was necessary to travel great distances or use postal mail to obtain the needed information because many of us do not live in close proximity to the places where our ancestors lived.
RAOGK is a global volunteer organization. With volunteers in every U.S. state and many International locations, [...]. Our volunteers take time to do everything from looking up courthouse records to taking pictures of tombstones. All they ask in return is reimbursement for their expenses (never their time) and a THANK YOU. is an easy to use messaging forum for everyone researching their family history roots or local history. You can offer and receive help from other registered users. The focus is on Ireland and the British Isles. Local Historians and Family Historians have a great deal of knowledge to share. This service is entirely free, with the hope that you, the historian and genealogy community as a whole will benefit from it.
You can share images of documents that you have, or indeed GEDcom files (from Family History software), and text files. These kind of files cannot contain viruses and can be safely shared here on RootsChat

The following web pages have accumulated information and links to help you locate records, resources etc.

  • Genuki provides a virtual reference library of genealogical information of particular relevance to the UK and Ireland. It is a non-commercial service, maintained by a charitable trust and a group of volunteers.
  • Cyndi's List A comprehensive, categorized & cross-referenced list of links that point you to genealogical research sites online.
  • Parish Chest although this is a commercial business selling many products it does have an extensive list of family history records and resources.
  • Genealogy Links - England Genealogy - Links to various other online records
  • Federation of Family History Societies
  • - lots of useful Genealogical guidelines although USA based.
  • Ask About Ireland Thousands of articles, images, maps, audio tracks, ebooks, videos...
  • Archives Hub provides links to archives in UK Universities/Colleges. Unique sources for your research. The Archives Hub enables you to search across descriptions of archives held at over 250 institutions across the UK with online databases.
  • Cengage Learning The ILN Historical Archive is only available for institutions to trial and purchase. The archive is not available at this stage for individual subscriptions.

Sites requiring membership or payment

  • Find my Past
  • The Genealogist
  • London Lives - London Lives makes available, in a fully digitised and searchable form, a wide range of primary sources about eighteenth-century London, with a particular focus on plebeian Londoners. This resource includes over 240,000 manuscript and printed pages from eight London archives and is supplemented by fifteen datasets created by other projects. It provides access to historical records containing over 3.35 million name instances. Facilities are provided to allow users to link together records relating to the same individual, and to compile biographies of the best documented individuals.
  • Burke's Peerage
  • Ireland genealogy
  • Roots Ireland

Web Pages where Resources are NOT online

Archives you need to visit. They may have online indexes but you need to visit to gain access to the documents.

  • Scottish wills and testaments
  • Highland Emigration Society
  • High Court of Justiciary records index
  • County Record Offices.

Each County has a County Record Office where records are kept. You usually have to make an appointment to visit, and they often like to know in advance what it is you want to look at. The easiest way of locating the relevant office is to search for it online.
Some offices offer a research service - this varies from County to County and is usually based on a fixed time of research paid for.

Online Genealogical Trees

There are many trees online and it is always useful to find others researching your Family History. It is important to always double check any information you may find on such trees and not assume that the information as correct. Some trees are freely available; others require membership either to the webpages or the specific tree.

Published Genealogies

  • The Society of Genealogists holds the largest collection of published genealogies in its library and its catalogue can be searched free on its website.
  • The Publication A Catalogue of British Family Histories Compiled by T R Thomson first published in 1928 is a list of British Family Histories, or books written as histories of English, Scots, Welsh or Irish families.

(I have the 1980 edition and can do a look-up - message CJB

Some of the most important bibliographies have been produced on CD-ROM by various publishers - these include:

  • The Genealogists' Guide by GW Marshall, 1903 - see
  • A Genealogical Guide by JB Whitmore, 1953
  • The Genealogists' Guide by G B Barrow, 1977
  • A Catalogue of British Family Histories by TR Thomson, 1980

The above books deal mainly with English families. There are works that look at printed materials relating to Scottish and Irish families, although none are as comprehensive.

For Scotland, it is essential to examine Scottish Family History by Margaret Stuart, 1930. This was updated in Scottish Family Histories Held in Scottish Libraries by Joan P S Ferguson, 1986. The latter is most useful as it lists the Scottish libraries that are known to hold a copy of the books cited.

Irish genealogies are listed in the Bibliography of Irish Family History by Brian de Breffny, 1974 and the Bibliography of Irish Family History by E MacLysaght, 1980.

One-Name Studies

  • A one-name study is a project researching facts about a surname and all the people who have held it, as opposed to a particular pedigree (the ancestors of one person) or descendancy (the descendants of one person or couple). Promotes the interests of both the individuals and groups who are engaged in one-name studies. Over 2,600 members have registered more than 8,400 study surnames
  • One Name Studies Websites with BMD indexes, Census or Parish Records Online.

Reference Books

Phillimore & Co Ltd; 3rd Revised edition edition (1 Dec 2002) is best resource for family historians dealing with the “Old Parishes” of England, Scotland & Wales. The third edition of this index features the addition of a map of the whole UK that shows the county boundaries before 1830 and it has shifted to a reliance on census indexes, rather than marriage indexes, which are now summarized in a paragraph.
The Atlas is an abstract made in 1831 of the records that had survived for the parishes of that time. The book gives the family historian maps of the ancient parishes, along with names and the dates of the earliest surviving registers for each of the named parishes. These can be as far back as 1538 or much later, depending on their survival against fire, flood and a variety of other reasons for them going missing.
(I have a copy of the 1984 Edition and can consult - message me CJB)

Types of British Genealogical Documents and Resources

There are two types of sources used in genealogical research: primary and secondary. Primary sources are documents and records that were created at or around the time that an event, such as a birth, death, or marriage, occurred. Someone with direct and personal knowledge of the event wrote these documents and records. They may include vital records, such as certificates of births, deaths, or marriages, family bibles, military records, census information, naturalization records, and more. Because they are considered to be highly accurate, primary sources are preferred when obtaining and citing genealogical information.

Secondary sources are documents and records that were not created at the time that an even occurred. They may include old letters, books, oral interviews, and vital records for events other than that in which they were written for. Secondary sources are often provided by someone recollecting events of the past, and may not always be completely accurate.

Some sources may be considered either primary or secondary, depending on certain factors. For example, a family bible is only a primary source if events were recorded at or around the times that they actually occurred. A family bible obtained in the 1800’s that lists birth dates, or other events, from the 1700’s is a secondary source. A birth date found on a death certificate is also a secondary source. However, the death date listed on the death certificate is a primary source.

The following list is arranged more-or-less in order of importance and of availability - primary to secondary, but there are no hard and fast rules!

1. Civil Registration

Civil registration began in England (and Wales) on 1 July 1837. From this date onward every birth, marriage and death should have been recorded. However, in the early years of civil registration was far from 100%, particularly in the period up to 1875. Even after 1875, there are events that went unrecorded. Despite this, civil registration records are among the most informative genealogical resources that a researcher has available to them in England and Wales and are often critical in determining who our ancestors were.

The Index of Place Names in England and Wales lists towns, their counties, and their registration district together with the dates that the town is included in that registration district.

Once you have established the details of a registered event you can order certificates online using the Home Office Certificate Ordering Service. Prices are £9.25 for a full certificate

In Scotland Civil Registration replaced parish registration on 1 January 1855. The National Records of Scotland holds statutory births,marriages and deaths for the whole of Scotland from 1855 to present.

Indexes of Scottish births and deaths (1855-2009) and marriages (1855-2009), and images of births (1855-1911), marriages (1855-1936) and deaths (1855-1961) can be viewed here on ScotlandsPeople. Copies of Certificates can be ordered there.

Government registration of births, marriages and deaths in Ireland began January 1, 1864. Registration of marriages for non-Roman Catholics began in 1845. Many of the early years of civil registration of births, marriages and deaths have been microfilmed by the Mormons and are available through Family Search. Certificates can be obtained from The General Register Office (Oifig An Ard-Chláraitheora) which is located at Government Offices, Convent Road, Roscommon, Co Roscommon, Ireland.

  • Births

Birth entries record the date and place of birth. In addition, the parents' names are recorded including the maiden name of the mother. It is also important to note the name of the informant, especially if it was not one of the parents. This is sometimes a family member. Of the three types of civil registration records (birth, marriages and deaths), births went unrecorded the most, particularly in the first couple of decades up to about 1860.

  • Marriages

Marriage entries record the date and place of marriage. Information includes the ages of the two parties, their residences, marital status, occupations, fathers, and their fathers' occupations. Civil copies of marriage entries are duplicates of original church entries. Thus, since it was the duty of the minister to forward copies of all of the marriages he performed, the vast majority have been recorded at the civil level, even in the early years of civil registration. However, it is worth checking the original church record since there are often discrepancies between the civil and ecclesiastical copies of the same record.
See The Prudence of Double-Checking on this subject!

  • Deaths

Death entries record the date and place of death. Information includes the cause of death and age at death. It is important to note who the informant was as they were often a family member. Death records for women often indicated their marital status if widowed and sometimes the name of their current or deceased husband. The large majority of deaths were recorded with the authorities. This is because burials from 1837 onward were not permitted until evidence had been provided that the death had been registered.

  • Free BMD Index The recording of births, marriages and deaths was started in 1837 and is one of the most significant resources for genealogical research. FreeBMD is an ongoing project, the aim of which is to transcribe the Civil Registration index of births, marriages and deaths for England and Wales, and to provide free Internet access to the transcribed records.
  • Certificate Exchange A web site which provides a free service for genealogists and family historians who would like to offer their unwanted BMD certificates, wills or medal rolls to other family historians who are researching ancestors with the same name.
  • UKBMD links to nearly 1500 sites that offer online transcription of UK BMD and census material.

2. Parish Registers

Parish Registers are usually found at the County Record Offices, but many Family History Societies and other organisations have transcribed these and published indexes or transcriptions either on-line or in print.

In 1538 a law was passed ordering the clergy to record baptisms, marriages and burials (Parish Registers). These details were to be written down after the Sunday Services.

In 1597, Queen Elizabeth I ordered that all existing records should be copied into parchment books. Some of the early records survive and these are usually deposited at the relevant County Record Offices.

Parish Registers are of the utmost importance in helping to trace ancestors and build a family tree and are invaluable in genealogy. Once the county from which your forefathers hailed is established, the transcription can be purchased and the relevant baptisms, marriages and/or burials confirmed, adding to your family history. Baptisms can also be referred to as Christenings.

  • Baptisms

In general birth dates were not recorded but children were normally baptised within 2 to 3 months of their birth. Baptism records will usually give the name of the child's parents and their 'abode', and often the occupation of the father. In early records the mother's name was not always given, and often only her first name was recorded.
The information contained in the early registers is very basic.

  • "Charles the son of Gyles Mason Baptized the 6th day”

It is very common to have no mention of the mother. That information was not considered to be important. Later, the mother's name began to be stated, e.g.

  • "Francis the son of John Neep and his wife Mary was baptised”

In the case of the baptism of an illegitimate child, the mother's full name would be stated, with either the wording "illegitimate", "base", "bastard" or "spurious" added, sometimes in the margin.

Example of Baptism Register

  • Marriages

After 1837 the marriage registers are the same as the Civil Registration record. Prior to that date marriage records contained just the very basic information, e.g.:

  • "William Neep and his wyf were married the 26th day”

...but most will state the full name of the wife, for example:

  • "John Neep and Mary Wright were married the 26th day.”

Additional information was limited to the inclusion of information of the parish of abode of one or other of the two people if it was different from the parish where the marriage took place, for example:

  • "John Smith of the parish of Littledean and Mary Jones were married”
  • "John Smith of the parish of Littledean and Mary Jones of this parish were married.”

Both mean the same thing. Note that this does not necessarily mean that John Smith was born in the parish of Littledean, but just that it was his accepted place of settlement (abode) at the time. Marriage registers from 1754 contained more information.
Example of Marriage Register

  • Banns

Before a marriage could take place in the Church of England, one of two procedures had to take place:

  • Banns were announced in church on three Sundays before the ceremony. After 1754, banns were often recorded in the marriage register. Separate banns registers were introduced in 1823. In the case of a couple from different parishes marrying, the banns were entered in the registers of each parish.
  • Deaths and Burials Early records of burials contained only the most basic information. e.g.
  • "John Smith was buried the 27th day".

Later registers (depending on the clergyman) began to include the wife's name.

  • "Mary the wife of John Smith was buried"
  • "Mary, the widdow of John Smith was buried"
  • "Sarah, the daughter of John Smith and Mary [his wife] was buried”

Example of Burial Register

Parish Register Resources

  • Online Parish Clerks are volunteers who collect genealogical information about a specific parish and answer email enquiries without charge.
  • Parish Chest has transcriptions of parish registers and parish records of baptisms, marriages and burials from almost all parts of Britain and some other countries available.
  • Free REGisters free Internet searches of baptism, marriage, and burial records, that have been transcribed from parish and non-conformist registers of the U.K
  • The Genealogist Transcripts (£)
  • Parish (£)
  • Parish Registers

Starting dates for Church Registers

See The Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers under "Reference Books" above.

3. Census Records

Since 1801, censuses have been taken in Britain every ten years, with the exception of 1941 (due to WW2). Pre 1841 censuses, (and very few survive) are almost all statistical only, i.e. number of males and females in a household, although some do contain the names of the head of the household. Public access to the individual census returns in England and Wales is normally restricted under the terms of the 100-year rule, but In exceptional circumstances the Registrar General for England and Wales does release specific information from 70-, 80-, or 90-year old closed censuses.

A look at the Census and how they were carried out is an interesting and informative article.

1841 Census
Date of 1841 Census - Sunday 6th June 1841
The 1841 census was the first modern UK census which included names of inhabitants. Each householder was required to complete a census schedule which contained the household address and the names, ages, sexes, occupations and places of birth of each individual living at the address.
The information was recorded on pre-printed census schedules, which were left with a household before later being collected by the enumerator. If there was no one in the house who could write, the enumerator helped to record the information.
The schedules were collected and copied by the enumerator into the official books, which were known as the 'Census Enumerator's books'. As the original census schedules have been destroyed, it is the census enumerator's books that researchers see, and this resulted in mistakes in the records.

  • NOTE: In the records, the end of each building is shown with two slashes // and the end of each household in a building is shown with one slash /.
  • AGES: Ages of those over 20 were rounded down to the nearest 5 years, therefore a person age 44 would be shown as aged 40. Those under 20 years of age were recorded with their proper age. In practice, although the above were the instructions to enumerators, it is relatively common to see the exact age af adults stated.
  • Example of 1841 Census Return

1851 Census

Date of 1851 Census - Sunday 30th March 1851
In 1851, householders were asked to give more precise details of the places of birth of each resident, to state their relationship to him or her, marital status and the nature of any disabilities from which they may have suffered.

1861 Census

Date of 1861 Census Sunday 7th April 1861

1871 Census

Date of 1871 Census - Sunday 2nd April 1871

1881 Census

Date of 1871 Census - Sunday 3rd April 1881

1891 Census

Date of 1891 Census - Sunday 5th April 1891

1901 census

Date of 1901 Census - Sunday 31st March 1901

1911 Census

Date of 1911 Census - Sunday 2nd April 1911

Census Resources

  • UK Census Online
  • UK Census Online This project aims to provide a "free-to-view" online searchable database of the 19th century UK census returns.
  • Census Records - National Archives/Public Record and County Record Offices allow access to census returns and you can purchase copies or transcriptions of census records from Parish Chest.

3a Boyd's Inhabitants of London

"In Percival Boyd's day Boyd's Inhabitants of London was known as his Citizens of London and it appears as such in older reference works. Anthony Camp, former Director of the Society of Genealogists, urged the change of name to Inhabitants of London since not all of the people indexed were citizens in the strict sense of being Freemen of the City. All are, however, residents of London even if not born there.
The appearance of the first index volume to the Inhabitants of London was announced in the Genealogists' Magazine in March 1939 (vol. 8, p 280); this was followed by a further 237 volumes. In March 1944 an article entitled London citizens by John Beach Whitmore appeared, which discussed Boyd's collection in detail. The collection includes 60,000 handwritten sheets, each dealing with a single family."

Reference: FindMyPast Boyd's Inhabitants of London

The family sheets themselves are self explanatory.
The box (the 'Subject Box') at the top right of the sheet gives surname, Christian name, marriage date (or an estimate: one year before the baptism of the first known child). Occasionally the date section is divided in two vertically with a date in the right hand half and this is usually the date of his will.
There are spaces provided in the sheet for:
The man's name and place of residence
The names and origins of his parents and maternal grandparents
Dates and places of his birth, marriage, death and burial
Details of his wife – her name, origin, parentage and dates and places of birth and death
His education, profession, livery company and his will
His children and their dates of birth, marriage and death and names of their spouses

4. Wills

Wills and administrations, proved in England and Wales from 1858 are available at the Principal Registry of the Family Division, First Avenue House, 42-49 High Holborn, London WC1V 6NP. Indexes can also be found at several record offices and libraries elsewhere. Before 1858 there was no national probate registry and research is more complicated as a result.

  • National Archives Search Page is the gateway to all the available records. Wills and Probate, Military
  • Find A Will is a new service so is still in the Beta mode (Oct 2014) at the moment it only has a date range from 1996 onwards. Remarkably up to date with the newest records into September 2014. This is very helpful as GRO death indexs only go up to 2007 so it's handy to confirm your suspicions of a death.

5. Monumental Inscriptions

Monumental Inscriptions, Cemeteries and Graveyards - United Kingdom

lists of United Kingdom counties - Links are to project pages co-ordinating information about Monumental Inscriptions, Cemeteries and Graveyards.

Gravestone inscriptions provide a wealth of information as they often provide the dates of birth and death as well as the names, maiden surname and 'pet names' of the deceased.

5. Bastardy Papers

Bastardy Papers record the efforts the Overseers made in ensuring fathers of illegitimate children paid for the upkeep of the child. They record the name of the mother, the child, usually described as male or female, and not necessarily by name and the putative father. Occupation sometimes given of the father and place of abode. Also may name those who stood surety.

6. Church Minute Books

Information of interest to the genealogist can be found but is a secondary rather than a primary source.

7. Workhouse Records

19th Century Poor Law Union and Workhouse Records You can search and download documents from a number of Poor Law Unions across England and Wales at the national Archive which offer free access..

The Poor Law Amendment Act was introduced in 1834, centralising the poor relief administrative system. Previously, poor relief had been largely the responsibility of the parish. Expenditure had risen during the Napoleonic Wars and local rate payers and authorities decided that looking after paupers was too costly. When the Poor Law Amendment Act was passed, parishes were grouped into 'unions', managed by boards of guardians who were elected by their constituent parish ratepayers. The new poor law unions were to report to the Poor Law Commissioners, based in Somerset House in London. Assistant Commissioners (later known as Poor Law Inspectors) were allocated a geographical area in which they were to set up, supervise and inspect the unions within it. The new system was expected to reduce expenditure, using a harsh workhouse test. Claimants would be 'offered the house', but if they turned it down then the legal obligation to offer relief was considered to have been met.

  • The History of the Workhouse for England and Ireland has invaluable information, resources for research and databases.
  • Workhouses] this site covers England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales.
  • Children's Homes information on all the many and varied institutions that became home for thousands of children and young people in Britain. These establishments range from orphanages, homes for those in poverty, or with special needs, through to reformatories, industrial and approved schools, training ships, and hostels. As well as details of each home's location, history etc. the site includes hundreds of historic images of the buildings and their inmates.

8. Re-settlement records/papers

Settlement Papers include several categories:

  • Examinations papers,
  • Settlement Certificates and
  • Removal Orders.
  • Vagrancy Passes were issued to permit a pauper to travel across parishes, usually as part of a Removal Order. All these can date from 1601 to 1834.

Until the Act of Settlement, or Poor Relief Act, of 1662 the poor and the sick had to rely on charity and the goodwill of others to eat and have a roof over their heads. The 1662 Act made this the responsibility of the parish and laid down definitions as to when a parish could be held responsible. The parish was responsible for all those who were legally settled in a parish, should they fall on hard times.

See Poor Relief Act 1662

Families wishing to move to another parish would apply for a settlement so that they would be provided for if they fell on hard times. The parish guardians wanted to be sure that those applying would be unlikely to make a claim on the parish, so an examination was held and a settlement granted or refused.

These papers are very useful to family historians who find that ancestors seem to suddenly appear in a parish from nowhere. Unfortunately many records have been destroyed, but those that survive can be found in county record offices. If there is a settlement for your ancestor you will know where to look for his baptism.

9. Military Records

Roll of Honour

10. Newspapers

All searching is free on this site but it costs to view images in the viewer. However, there are a number of free sample pages in the timeline on the Homepage. There are both Subscription and Credit Packages available to best
[ suit your needs. If you do not have a valid package you will be asked to register with a valid email address and then purchase a Package before being able to view images

11. Family Bibles

If you are lucky enough to have a family bible in your possession you will know what a rich source of information these can be. There are collections housed in various repositories and Museums.

  • Bible Records Online - a site dedicated to transcribing and digitizing the contents of family records that were written inside family Bibles and in other important documents from as early as the 1500s through today.
  • British Family Bibles whose purposes are -
  • To transcribe and add records from British Family Bibles as they become available.
  • To acquire unwanted British family bibles and transcribe their contents. They seek contact with booksellers and other people who happen across these bibles.
  • To offer for sale family bibles as available.

12. Oral History

Most of us start by asking living relatives for information about our ancestors, recording what we learn and then taking the research from there. Do this while you can!

13. Passenger Lists

Passenger Lists often have dates of Birth included in the information, and addresses that can prove fruitful.

14. Occupational Records

Occupational Records can provide insight into the lives of your ancestors. They can be used to complement census records. Some contain address details and pre-date 1841 making them are a valuable substitute for the pre-census years. Membership of some of the organisations listed under Sites requiring membership or payment above include many of the records for the following.

Insolvent debtors were held in local or specific debtors’ prisons, and often spent the rest of their lives there if they were unable to pay off their debts. Imprisonment for debt did not stop until 1869.
Records are available at the National Archives see their PDF Guide.

  • Actors
  • Clergy
  • Law
  • 1826 Clarke's New Law List
  • 1856 Law List
  • 1900 Solicitors' Diary, Almanac & Directory
  • 1911 Justices of the Peace
  • 1824 Clark's New Law List
  • 1066-1870 Biographical Dictionary of the Judges of England
  • Metropolitan Police

Met Genealogy
The Metropolitan Police was established by Act of Parliament in 1829 by Sir Robert Peel who appointed 2 Commissioners and an establishment of 895 Constables, 88 Sergeants, 20 Inspectors and 8 Superintendents. The numbers increased as the force grew to include the Greater London area (excluding the City of London) parts of the Home Counties, and all the Royal Naval Dock Yards throughout the country. The first officer was given the warrant number ‘1’ and today the service is reaching near to a quarter million. The warrant number is unique to the officer and is different from the shoulder number which changes as the officer moves stations.
Many records from the past have been retained by the Metropolitan Police and most ex officers can be traced. Assisted by The Friends of the ‘met collection’ the MPS has invested resources to make these records searchable and available to the public.

  • Medical
  • Old Occupations
  • [] an alphabetical list of occupations under their old names, and what they are today. Useful when used in conjunction with census returns.

15. Marriage Licences

A marriage licence avoided the publicity and delay of banns. A bride and groom obtained a license to be married by applying to the proper civil authorities, usually the clerk in the town, county, district or parish in which the marriage was to take place. These records usually have the most information of genealogical value, including the couple's names, ages, residences, race, birth dates, occupations and usually the names and maybe even birthplaces of the parents. The license was presented to the person who performed the marriage. The licences themselves rarely survive. But the related marriage bonds and allegations were kept in the issuing diocesan office. These are often now available in local record offices.

  • Many marriage licences books are available on CD from the Parish Chest.

16. Adoption

Adoption was first legalised over eighty years ago. There was no formal adoption process prior to 1927, when 'adoption' was primarily a private arrangement. It is, therefore, unlikely that documentary evidence can be located.

  • Adopted Children Register: GRO maintains the Adopted Children Register (ACR). The Register contains the particulars of adoptions authorised by order of a court in England or Wales on or after 1 January 1927. The only information that is available from the Adopted Children Register is a certificated copy of an entry, which is the equivalent of a birth certificate for an adopted person. For further information see
  • Adoption Contact Register: GRO administers the Adoption Contact Register on behalf of the Department of Health. The register is a linking mechanism between an adopted person and their birth relatives, where both parties so wish. For further information see
  • Adopted adults (at least 18 years of age) can apply for the access to the information relating to their original birth entry. For further information see

The Register is not open to public search or inspection; however, adopted persons aged 18 and over can apply for their original birth registration form.

17. Divorce

Divorce records are incomplete and are kept in a variety of archives. There are no divorce case files or decrees available online. The National Archives have a search service at Looking for records of Divorce which can search divorce case files (1858-1927), but to access these records you will either need to visit them, commission research (£) or, where you can identify a specific record reference, order a copy (£).

For Scottish divorce records (1563 to before 1984) contact The National Archives of Scotland

18. Other/Sundry Records

  • Obituaries

Obituaries are an excellent source of information about a persons life, relationships, occupation and ethnic background offering pointers to further areas of research. They are not always accurate and need to be used cautiously.

Obituary Searches

See Obituary Portal

  • Trade Directories
  • Pigot's Historical and Occupational Trade Directories are included in may membership webpages
  • Historical Directories is a digital library of local and trade directories for England and Wales, from 1750 to 1919.
  • Pigot's Historical Trade Directories

  • Landowner Records
  • Property Valuation lists
  • Griffith's Valuation is a very good resource from which to compile a list of candidate families for further investigation. It was a survey of all of Ireland for taxation purposes. Well worth investigating for Irish ancestors.

  • Apprenticeship Records
  • School and University Records
  • Passports and Immigration Records

Records for

  • Great Ormond Street Hospital (and its convalescent home, Cromwell House),
  • Evelina Hospital,
  • Alexandra Hospital for Children with Hip Disease,
  • Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Glasgow.

The Admission Registers cover a period ranging from February 1852 (when Great Ormond Street's doors first opened) through to December 31st 1914. While the Great Ormond Street records are continuous for the whole period, the other hospital records cover shorter runs within these dates: Cromwell House, 1869 to 1910; the Evelina, 1874 -1877/1889-1902; Alexandra Hospital for Hip Disease, 1867-1895, Glasgow, 1883 to 1903.

A fully searchable edition of the largest body of texts detailing the lives of non-elite people ever published, containing 197,745 criminal trials held at London's central criminal court.

Geographical Information

  • A Vision of Britain Through Time
  • Ancestral Atlas is a map-based genealogy site that enables you to add and share your family history events worldwide. The map is shared by everyone using Ancestral Atlas - you pin your family history data to it and choose whether to make that information visible in order to network with others. There is a free subscription level.

Place name format: is Place Name; City; County; Country

Place Names

(Places other than Cities) - this could be village, Town, farm name or address.

Useful and/or Interesting Web Links


Not all places are cities. Before 1888 City status was granted with the presence of a cathedral. After 1888 the presence of a cathedral ceased to be a relevant factor in granting city status. There are currently a total of 69 official cities in the United Kingdom (51 in England, 5 in Northern Ireland, 7 in Scotland and 6 in Wales).

In the list below pre 1888 cities are in Bold (with date where not immemorial); others have the year of their city status being granted in brackets.

When adding place names consider the following lists

  • England
    • Bath
    • Birmingham (1889)
    • Bradford (1897)
    • Brighton and Hove (2000)
    • Bristol
    • Cambridge (1951)
    • Canterbury
    • Carlisle (1158)
    • Chelmsford (2012)
    • Chester (1541)
    • Chichester
    • Coventry (1345)
    • Derby (1977)
    • Durham
    • Ely
    • Exeter
    • Gloucester (1541)
    • Hereford
    • Kingston upon Hull (1897)
    • Lancaster (1937)
    • Leeds (1893)
    • Leicester (1919)
    • Lichfield
    • Lincoln
    • Liverpool (1880)
    • City of London
    • Manchester 918530
    • Newcastle upon Tyne (1882)
    • Norwich
    • Nottingham (1897)
    • Oxford (1542)
    • Pieterborough (1541)
    • Plymouth (1928)
    • Portsmouth (1926)
    • Preston (2002)
    • Ripon (1836)
    • Salford (1926)
    • Salisbury New Sarum (1227)
    • Sheffield (1893)
    • Southampton (1964)
    • St. Albans (1877)
    • Stoke on Trent (1925)
    • Sunderland (1992)
    • Truro (1877)
    • Wakefield (1888)
    • Wells (1205)
    • City of Westminster (1540
    • Winchester
    • Wolverhampton
    • Worcester
    • York
  • Scotland
    • Aberdeen (1891) (Royal Burgh 1179)
    • Dundee (1889) (Royal Burgh 1191)
    • Edinburgh (city status has never been formally granted) (Royal Burgh 1329)
    • Glasgow (city status has never been formally granted) (Royal Burgh 1492)
    • Inverness (2000)
    • Perth (2012)
    • Stirling (2002)
  • Wales
    • Bangor
    • Cardiff (1905)
    • Newport (2002)
    • St. Asaph (2012)
    • St. David's (1994)
    • Swansea (1969)
  • Northern Ireland
    • Armagh (1994)
    • Belfast (1888)
    • Derry (1604
    • Lisburn (2002)
    • Newry (2002)
  • Ireland This list includes places which have at some time had a legally-recognised claim to the title "city". Informally the term may have been applied to other places or at other times.

Reference Cities of Ireland

  • * Cork (1185)
    • Derry (Londonderry) (1604)
    • Dublin (1172)
    • Galway (1985)
    • Kilkenny (1383)
    • Limerick (1199)
    • Waterford (1206)

The following places are Prospective Cities in Ireland

  • Drogheda
  • Dundalk
  • Sligo
  • Swords
  • Tallaght


Counties are areas used for the purposes of administrative, geographical and political demarcation. These have changed over the years.

Those which did not exist before 1889 are marked §


See also Counties of the United Kingdom - England

Scotland Those which did not exist before 1890 are marked §

  • City of Aberdeen §
  • Aberdeenshire
  • Angus (Forfarshire)
  • Argyll
  • Ayrshire
  • Banffshire
  • Berwickshire
  • Bute
  • Caithness
  • Clackmannanshire
  • Cromartyshire
  • Dumfriesshire
  • Dunbartonshire (Dumbarton)
  • City of Dundee §
  • East Lothian (Haddingtonshire)
  • City of Edinburgh
  • Fife
  • City of Glasgow §
  • Inverness-shire
  • Kincardineshire
  • Kinross-shire
  • Kirkcudbrightshire
  • Lanarkshire
  • Midlothian (County of Edinburgh)
  • Moray (Elginshire)
  • Nairnshire
  • Orkney
  • Peeblesshire
  • Perthshire
  • Renfrewshire
  • Ross and Cromarty §
  • Ross-shire
  • Roxburghshire
  • Selkirkshire
  • Shetland (Zetland)
  • Stirlingshire
  • Sutherland
  • West Lothian (Linlithgowshire)
  • Wigtownshire

Wales Those which did not exist before 1889 are marked §

  • Anglesey Isle of Anglesey,
  • Brecknockshire
  • Caernarfonshire
  • Cardiganshire Ceredigion,
  • Carmarthenshire
  • Clwyd §
  • Denbighshire
  • Dyfed §
  • Flintshire Flintshire,
  • Glamorgan
  • Gwent §
  • Gwynedd §
  • Merionethshire
  • Mid Glamorgan §
  • Monmouthshire Monmouthshire,
  • Montgomeryshire
  • Pembrokeshire
  • Powys §
  • Radnorshire
  • South Glamorgan §
  • West Glamorgan §

Northern Ireland

Those which did not exist before 1899 are marked §


The island consists of varied geological provinces which are further divided into counties

  • Leinster
  • Carlow
  • Dublin
  • Kildare
  • Kilkenny
  • Laois
  • Longford
  • Louth
  • Meath
  • Offaly
  • Westmeath
  • Wexford
  • Wicklow
  • Ulster
  • Antrim
  • Armagh
  • Cavan
  • Donegal
  • Down
  • Fermanagh
  • Londonderry
  • Monaghan
  • Tyrone
  • Munster
  • Clare
  • Cork
  • Kerry
  • Limerick
  • Tipperary
  • Waterford
  • Connacht
  • Galway
  • Leitrim
  • Mayo
  • Roscommon
  • Sligo


England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland

The United Kingdom (AKA Britain or Great Britain) is a country in its own right and consists of four countries: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The latter three of these are devolved administrations with capital cities Belfast, Edinburgh and Cardiff respectively. Associated with the UK, but not constitutionally part of it, are the three Crown dependencies: Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man

Keeping Records

The easiest way to keep your Family History Records in order is to use genealogy software. There is a lot about - the following is by no means a comprehensive list but will get you started when looking for that ideal package.

  • My History supplies everything you need to help research, archive, share and publish your family history.

Genealogy Software overview

Information regarding Genealogy Software available for personal devices and to offer some feedback on specific packages from GENi users. It is a collaborative project which hopefully will offer guidance to those choosing such software.

See also Comparison List

If you use one of these package and have comments to make which might help others make a choice please Share them!

  • PAF - Personal Ancestral Files
  • Family Search PAF - a free desktop genealogy and family history program for Windows. It allows you to quickly and easily collect, organize and share your family history and genealogy information.
  • RootsMagic £ is the award-winning, FamilySearch Certified genealogy program that makes family history easy.

(I use this as my main recording system - CJB)

Useful Information

British Abroad

  • British Families in South Africa Publication

Lists more than 1,100 surnames, their meanings and origins. It also includes many different coats of arms. This is product is a must for all family historians in South Africa with an interest in the British heritage.



Latin words

See "Simple Latin for Family Historians" by Eve McLaughlin.

  • Baptisms
  • filius - son of (remember this as: ends in "us" = male)
  • filia - daughter of (remember this as: ends in "a" = female)
  • et - and
  • baptizavi - I have baptised
  • natus - born (male)
  • nata - born (female)
  • gemelli - gemini twins
  • trigemini - triplets
  • Marriages
  • nupsit - married
  • matrimonium - matrimony
  • licentiam - by licence
  • bannum - by banns
  • Burials

Any word that looks like mortuary or obituary!

  • mortus - died
  • sepultavi - I have buried
  • dormit - sleeping
  • corpus - the body
  • General
  • parochia- parish
  • in comitatu - in the county of (remember this as "community")
  • in agro - in the county of (literally in the field of)
  • ibidem - of the same place
  • extraneus - a stranger
  • Medical Terms


Useful web page -

  • s.p. sine prole - without issue
  • v.p. vita patris (in the lifetime of the father)

British Genealogical Societies and Family History Groups

Some Family History Societies, as well as published transcriptions of Parish Registers, Monumental Inscriptions, Workhouse Records, etc., have local history books of their areas. These are invaluable for really understanding how your ancestors lived and what was happening in their neighbourhoods at the time. It is always joining a FHG inthe area of your research to get assistance from people with local knowledge.

Specialist Areas of Research

REGIONAL Genealogical Resources

Under individual County Projects


Commercial Family History Source Suppliers

  • Parish Chest List £
  • S&N Genealogy £ for books, CD's Software, Binders etc.
  • The Original Record £ Surname-indexed ancestry and genealogy historical records, books and documents containing 10 million entries. Scans directly available on-line.

Peerage and Heritage

  • Knights of England 1127-1904 - the definitive two-volume publication. Described in the frontispiece as "A Complete Record from the Earliest Time [1127] to the Present Day [1904] of the Knights of all the Orders of Chivalry in England, Scotland, and Ireland, and of Knights Batchelors." You can search for names or other words, and can then view the page on which they were found. You can also move five pages forwards or backwards through the book from the page you are shown. Available to search through some Membership base webpages.
  • Blood Royal
  • Blood Royal of Britain - The Plantagenet Roll - The Anne of Exeter Volume
  • Blood Royal of Britain - Edward IV, Henry VII and James III
  • Blood Royal of Britain - The Plantagenet Roll - The Clarence Volume
  • Blood Royal of Britain - The Plantagenet Roll - The Isabel of Essex Volume
  • Blood Royal of Britain - The Plantagenet Roll - The Mortimer-Percy Volumes


Earlier Research

  • Medieval English Genealogy
  • Inquisitions Post Mortem A useful source for English medieval genealogy. Lists people who held land directly from the King (which obviously wasn't every big landowner, but many gentry families can be found in these records). Basically, when somebody died, a list of his (or her) land holdings was made, together with a list of heir or heirs to the land. Of course, in simple cases the eldest son was the sole heir, so younger siblings wouldn't get mentioned. But there are lots of more complicated cases with additional information.