England

Search the Catalogue, Guides and Gateways

There are many useful resources for researching English ancestors.  The key to finding them is in the State Library catalogue using a keyword search. Try searching under the name of a location – village, town or county – plus the type of source. Examples of keyword searches are: Manchester directories, Suffolk voting registers and London births.

The following guides are available in the Genealogy Centre, 3rd Floor, State Library:

A Genealogist's Guide to Discovering Your English Ancestors : how to find and record your unique heritage

The Family Tree Detective : a manual for tracing your ancestors in England and Wales

Useful family history resources that are available online: 

GENUKI England  - the England section of the GENUKI: UK & Ireland Genealogy website. There are pages for each county and  information for the whole of England.

English Family History and Genealogy - family history gateway for England.

The EnglandGenWeb Project - the England section of the WorldGenWeb site. There are pages for each county, links to other websites, message boards and mailing lists.

BBC Family History - information on family history research, including advice for beginners and historical timelines.

Cyndi’s List - England -  the England section of Cyndi’s List, a comprehensive, categorized & cross-referenced list of genealogical research sites with online links.

Births, Marriages & Deaths

The official recording of births, marriages and deaths by the government, known as civil registration, began in England on 1 July 1837. When the system was introduced the country was divided up into registration districts and it became compulsory for people to inform their local registrar when a birth, marriage or death took place.  Births, marriages and deaths are recorded by local registrars around the country and the details are forwarded to the General Register Office (GRO) every three months where the information is collated into national indexes. For a more detailed look at civil registration in England see:

An Introduction to British Civil Registration

FamilySearch Wiki on Civil Registration in England

FreeBMD is a website where volunteers have transcribed the quarterly national GRO indexes from 1837 onwards. This is an ongoing project with very good coverage up to the 1950s. To improve searches, check the coverage charts to see how much data has been transcribed for a particular year and try checking the Phonetic search surnames box.  For marriages, clicking on the volume number will show the names of other people listed on the same page. This is useful for checking whether or not it is the correct marriage where the spouse’s name is known. Click on the name of the registration district for more information. This will often provide a list of villages included in that area.

Findmypast  Births, marriages and deaths for England and Wales are searchable on Findmypast. This eResource can be particularly useful for ancestors who may have been born, married or died overseas.

England & Wales Births 1837-2006

British Nationals Born Overseas 1818-2005

British Nationals Armed Forces Births 1761-2005

England & Wales Marriages 1837-2008

British Nationals Married Overseas 1818-2005

British Nationals Armed Forces Marriages 1796-2005

England & Wales Deaths 1837-2007

British Nationals Died Overseas 1818-2005

British Nationals Armed Forces Deaths 1796-2005

Ancestry Library Edition - contact the State Library or a local WA public library for details on how to access this resource. Births, marriages and deaths for England and Wales are available on Ancestry.

England & Wales, FreeBMD Birth Index, 1837-1915

England & Wales, Birth Index: 1916-2005

England & Wales, FreeBMD Marriage Index, 1837-1915

England & Wales, Marriage Index: 1916-2005

England & Wales, FreeBMD Death Index, 1837-1915

England & Wales, Death Index: 1916-2007

UKBMD  This is another volunteer project which has involved transcribing local register office indexes rather than the national index. It is nowhere near as complete as FreeBMD but may be a useful alternative.

General Register Office birth, death and marriage indexes  The General Register Office Index, sometimes known as St. Catherine’s Index, is available on microform from 1837 to 1970 in the Genealogy Centre on the 3rd floor.  There are four separate microfilm reels or microfiche (Jan-Mar; Apr-Jun; Jul-Aug; Sep-Dec) for each year.

Ordering Certificates

English  birth, marriage and death certificates contain much less information than those for Australia. Information recorded on certificates depends on the knowledge of the person who was informing the registrar. Therefore, some information may be missing or incorrect. For a detailed breakdown of information recorded, see the guide:  Information found on certificates for Australian states, New Zealand and the British Isles (PDF 35KB).

General Register Office Certificates can be ordered from the General Register Office. The website has details of costs and how to apply.

Local Register Offices in England & Wales  alternatively, certificates can be ordered from local register offices. Register offices in England can be found on this website.

The following books also give detailed information about English certificates:

Birth and death certificates England and Wales 1837 to 1969

Marriages and certificates in England and Wales

Finding Births, Marriages and Deaths pre-1837

Church registers where baptisms, marriages and burials are recorded are used for finding births, marriages and deaths occuring prior to 1837. These events continued to be recorded by churches after 1837, so parish registers also provide information after this date. To use parish registers, it is necessary to have some idea as to which parish is relevant to the person whose records are being searched. Many parish records have been published and are available at the Library either as books or on microfilm, microfiche or CD-ROM. Try searching our catalogue under keyword using the name of the parish or geographic area. Other resources are:

The Phillimore atlas and index of parish registers - the Phillimore atlas is a valuable source of information about the location and extent of parish registers.

GENUKI England - has useful information about parish registers for most counties.

FamilySearch - one of the most important sources for parish registers is the extensive collection of microfilmed material available from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Some of this material has been indexed and/or digitised on their website.

International Genealogical Index (IGI) contains births and marriages not deaths. Always consult the microfilm of the original document which often has additional information. Microfilms can be ordered for a small fee from any of the FamilySearch Centres located around the world. Check the Library catalogue to see what is available and obtain the relevant microfilm number for ordering.

There are many parish registers available on Ancestry.com such as the large collection from the London Metropolitan Archives which includes parts of Middlesex, Surrey and Hertfordshire.

British Isles Vital Record Index - this index covers England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales and has over 10 million birth and christening records and nearly 2 million marriage records for the following periods Baptisms 1530-1906 and Marriages 1538-1940

FreeReg - this website has transcriptions of baptisms, marriages and burials transcribed by volunteers. Select 'Counties and Parishes' to see which areas have been included so far. 

Findmypast - Findmypast has a lot of English and Welsh parish registers. It also includes the National Burial Index.

National Burial Index for England and Wales (NBI) - the NBI covers England and Wales and has over 13 million burials from 1538 onwards. It is not a complete index of burials but includes many records put together by family history societies and groups. Some counties are particularly well covered such as Essex, Lincolnshire, Somerset, Staffordshire, Suffolk, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and the West Riding of Yorkshire, all of which have over 500,000 entries. Burials from a variety of denominations are included.

Census

Census records are a key source of information for family historians. Records can provide age, address, occupation, marital status and birthplace. It can be useful to check census pages either side of the one being  researched as these can  uncover relatives and provide information on the type of neighbourhood in which people lived. A census has been taken of the population in England every ten years since 1801 with the exception of 1941. However, the 1801-1831 censuses did not record the names of people so are only useful for statistical purposes. The following table shows the date of each census since 1841 with its National Archives reference:

Census Date

National Archives Reference

6 June 1841

HO 107

30 March 1851

HO 107

7 April 1861

RG 9

2 April 1871

RG 10

3 April 1881

RG 11

5 April 1891

RG 12

31 March 1901

RG 13

2 April 1911

RG 14

Census: The Expert Guide - published by The National Archives in 2008, this guide includes tips for searching online censuses and comparisons of the various commercial sites. The 1841-1911 census returns for England are available on both Findmypast and Ancestry Library Edition.

The Library holds published census data for various counties. Try searching our catalogue under keyword with the name of the county e.g Devon census.

FreeCEN  has some census data which has been transcribed by volunteers. Coverage varies but is particularly good for some counties such as Cornwall.

FamilySearch - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has indexed the 1841-1861 and 1881-1901 censuses and transcriptions of some of the data is available through their website. Images of the census pages are not available.

Last updated on: 01 Dec 2017