Family History in
England & Wales

Family history research in England and Wales is aided by the availability of certificates of births, marriages and deaths. Registration has been a legal requirement since 11th July 1837, consequently compiling a family history back to that date should be relatively straightforward. Records are found at the Family Records Centre, 1 Myddleton Street, London EC1R 1UW.

A birth certificate shows the child's name, the names of both parents and includes the mother's maiden name, father's occupation, whether the parents are married, and the name and address of the person registering the birth.

A marriage certificate shows the date and place of the ceremony, names and ages of the couple, their occupations, marital status, current address, and the names and occupations of both the couple's fathers.

A death certificate shows the name, date and place of death, cause, the occupation of the deceased, and the name and address of the person reporting the death.

The additional information over and above the dates will help you to write a family history rather than just a family tree and the end result will be so much more interesting, especially to your descendants.

If you need a copy of a certificate, these are available but don't expect to walk out with one; certificates are posted to you. However, if you are resident in the UK it is now possible to order online at the GRO website. Non-UK residents will soon be able to order records online. In the meantime, you can order by post - download an application form at www.statistics.gov.uk/registration/certe_w/downloads/birth.pdf. Substitute marriage or death for birth as appropriate.

Wills: for wills post-1858, go to the Probate Search Room, First Avenue House, 42-49 High Holborn, London WC1V 6NP (020 7936 7000). Pre-1858, wills were proved at one of 3000 ecclesiastical courts and records are difficult to trace. Try www.pro.gov.uk/leaflets/ri2241.htm.

In Wales, wills pre-1858 are held at the National Library of Wales at Aberystwyth. www.llgc.org.uk.

In April 2003, the Public Records Office and the Historical Maunscripts Commission merged to form the National Archives. Here you will find documents of national importance like the Doomsday Book - if your research takes you back that far you ARE doing well! At the moment these two organisations are still at two locations; best starting point is www.nationarchives.gov.uk.

For records between 1442-1850, go to www.englishorigins.com where you will find details of 7 million names drawn from the Society of Genealogists' data including Boyd's Marriage Index, Bank of England Wills and Apprentice records.

There are also similar pages for ancestors in Scotland and Ireland to help you build a family history in these countries.

Go to Origins.net - Trace your Origins online