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General Register



National Burial Index

Parish Registers


Other Sources


  Burial Records, Criminal Records, Directories, Education Records, Electoral Records, Emigration Records, Manorial Records, Military Records, Newspapers, Non Parochial Registers, Occupational Records, Taxation Records
  Burial Before 1853
  • Before 1853 the vast majority of burials in England and Wales were recorded in Parish Registers
  • For Nonconformist, Roman Catholic and Jewish burials check out Non Parochial Registers
  • Although its coverage varies considerably from county to county and period to period, it is worth first searching the National Burial Index. This index is at its most useful for the period 1800-1840.
    Since 1853
  • An Act of Parliament in 1853 enabled local authorities to purchase and use land for burials
  • Since then with the growing spread of civic and private cemeteries it becomes increasingly complex finding burial records, particularly in urban areas
  • Burial records for civic cemeteries are usually held and maintained by local authorities
  • Although your ancestor's Death Certificate will not tell you where he or she was buried, it will tell you where they were living at the time of death and so help narrow down your search for a burial record
  Criminal Court Proceedings
  • Records on county court proceedings can be found in the relevant County Record Office
  • Records on central court proceedings such as those of the Old Bailey can be found at the National Archives at Kew - consult its online guide for the records held there

Prison Records

  • Until the 19th century, except for prisons attached to the central courts, all prisons were administered locally
  • Pre 19th century records on these locally administered prisons can be found at the relevant County Record Office
  • For all other prison records (including those for prisoners held in debtors goals) it is worth first checking out the extensive collection held at the National Archives at Kew - consult its online guide for the records held there
    Transported Convicts
  • Convicts were transported to Australia between 1787 and 1867.
  • A large collection of records relating to these transported convicts is held at the National Archives at Kew - consult its online guide for the records held there.
  Directories Local Trade Directories
  • Local trade and commercial directories have been published since the late 17th century
  • They list all the traders and professionals in their locality
  • By the late 19th century these directories were becoming very comprehensive and many contained alphabetical lists of private householders as well information on local traders
  • Most Record Offices contain at least a few 19th century editions of trade directories for their area
  • The University of Leicester has set up a web site with online access to large collection of digitally imaged 18th, 19th and early 20th century trade directories
    Professional Directories
  • Specialist directories for different professions have been published since the 19th century
  • These include ones for pharmaceutical chemists, dentists, company directors, insurance brokers, marine engineers, musicians, architects, veterinary surgeons , solicitors, schoolmasters and numerous other occupations
  • Past editions of these professional directories can usually be viewed at the current headquarters of the professional body involved or if not, the professional body should be able to advise you on where you can access past editions
    Telephone Directories
  • The British Telecom Archives in the City of London hold almost the complete set of telephone directories for England and Wales since 1880

Education Records

Elementary School Records
  • Many elementary schools within the state system have registers and school log books going back to the 1850s when a great number of schools were built. Increasingly their log books and other records are being can be found in Record Offices. Although there are still many that are retained by the schools themselves, the current head teachers are often only too pleased when someone takes an interest in them.
  Secondary School Records
  • Over the years, grammar and public schools have tended to generate many records of interest to the genealogist. Although some of these records can be found in Record Offices, many are retained in the schools themselves
  • The Society of Genealogists holds an extensive collection of registers of pupils at public schools
  University Records
  • Although before the 1820s, the only universities in England and Wales were Oxford and Cambridge, in the early 17th century a higher percentage of children were attending university than at any later time before the 1950s. There is therefore a good chance that at least one of your ancestors can be found in the Oxbridge records.
  Electoral Records Before 1832 - Poll Books
  • Only male owners of freehold property were entitled to vote (under 1 in 10 of the adult male population)
  • Records were kept in county Poll Books of everybody who voted in a contested election
  • Voters are listed in surname/forename order together with their occupation and the township in which their qualifying freehold property lay
  • Most poll books are post 1711
  Since 1832 - Electoral Registers
  • Electoral Registers have been compiled annually since 1832
  • Successive changes to voting qualifications have progressively increased the voting franchise as follows:
  • 1 in 7 men by 1832
  • 1 in 3 men by 1867
  • 2 in 3 men by 1884
  • All men over 21 and all women over 30 by 1918
  • All adults over 21 by 1928
  • All adults over 18 by 1969
  • Record Offices and Local Studies Centres usually have a substantial number of electoral registers for their own area dating from the earliest years
  • The British Library holds a complete set of electoral registers for England and Wales from 1947 and a good collection of earlier ones
  • The National Library of Wales holds many of the electoral registers for Wales
  Emigration Records Emigration to Australia
  • First look up which is an excellent "gateway" site listing all the key genealogical sites in Australia helpfully seperated into categories (birth/marriage/death records, census records, convict records, wills and probate records, etc.)
  • The New South Wales State Records website is well worth visiting. It has several databases and fact sheets related to immigration into Australia
  • The Australian National Archives site is particularly useful for tracing world war 1 veterans bearing in mind that many were born in the U.K. It is also very useful if a family member migrated to Australia after 1920 and even more so for migrations after the second world war
  • The Australian War Memorial site is excellent for tracing world war 2 veterans.
  • It is also well worth contacting the appropriate family history society(ies) within Australia - a list of links to the main ones is held on this site
  Emigration to Canada
  • Lists of transatlantic passengers to Canada in the period 1865 to 1908 have been microfilmed by the National Archives of Canada - see their Canadian Genealogy Centre web site for a catalogue of these microfilms which can be viewed at any LDS Family History Centre
  • For the period 1925 to 1935, the National Archives of Canada maintain an online database of immigration records which can be searched by surname/forename.
  Emigration to New Zealand
  Emigration to South Africa
  Emigration to United States
  • From 1892 to 1924 more than 22 million migrants to the United States passed through Ellis Island - thanks to the efforts of the Latter-day Saints, the associated transatlantic passenger lists have been transcribed into a vast database which can be searched online to find an individual migrant
  • The US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) provides a helpful set of guides to archives held on migrants to the United States
  Manorial The Manor
  • For 500 years after the Norman Conquest, the manor, an agricultural estate, was the unit of local government in England and Wales
  • At its head was the lord of the manor who held the estate either directly from the king or through another lord
  • The organ of manorial administration was the manor court which was a periodic meeting of the tenants in the manor presided over by the lord of the manor or his steward
  • Before the start of Parish Registers in 1538, manorial records are virtually the only detailed genealogical source for the bulk of the population in England and Wales.
  Court Rolls
  • These are the most useful of manorial records for the genealogist
  • They detail the proceedings of the manor court
  • They record changes of occupancy of tenanted land providing names of the late and new owners
  • Disputes between tenants settled in the court often reveal the names of family members
  Locating Manorial Records
  • Survival of manorial records has not been very good - only a small proportion of court rolls from before 1500 have survived
  • The majority of manorial records are held in Record Offices and private repositories
  • The National Archives maintain the Manorial Documents Register which identifies the location of archived manorial records
  • Part of this register has been computerised for searching online (Wales, Isle of Wight, Hampshire, MIddlesex, Norfolk, Yorkshire)
  • The rest of the register can be viewed at the National Archives at Kew
  Military World War Casualties
  • The Commonwealth War Graves Commission provides an online database giving details of the 1.7 million members of the Commonwealth forces who died in the First or Second World Wars
  • This online database can be searched by surname and initials
  World War Medals
  • Army officers can be researched fairly easily by consulting the relevant Army List - this document provides a broad outline of every army officer's career - the National Archives hold Army Lists from 1702 running right up to the present day
  • Information on an "other ranks" ancestor can be obtained from his Discharge Papers - the National Archives hold Discharge Papers from 1760 to 1913 - after 1883 these are arranged alphabetically throughout the whole army but before then they were arranged by regiment
  • Another source of information for "other ranks" ancestors are Muster Rolls - these are arranged by regiment and you can view them for the period 1730 to 1898 at the National Archives
  • Knowing which regiment an "other ranks" ancestor served in considerably eases research - if you have also found your ancestor in a census return, the census entry should list his regiment.
  Royal Navy
  • Information on a naval officer ancestor can be obtained from the relevant Navy List, Officers Service Record and Passing Certificate - these documents can be viewed at the National Archives - Navy Lists from 1756 to 1950 can also be viewed at the Society of Genealogists
  • Information on a naval rating ancestor can be obtained from the relevant Ship Muster assuming you know which ship your ancestor served in - Ship Musters for the period 1667-1878 can be viewed at the National Archives
  Newspapers Useful Information
  • Obituary notices that contain a potted biography of your ancestor
  • Scrupulously reported funerals and weddings that provide useful inventories of those attending (with relationships to the deceased or to the bride and groom)
  • Local court proceedings which can shed new light on the character of your ancestors
  • Advertisements which provide an insight into the business carried out by tradesmen ancestors
  • General background on the local and national events shaping the lives of your ancestors
    Locating Back Copies
  • The largest collection of back copies of national and local newspapers is held at the British Library's Newspaper Library - use its online catalogue to check whether it holds the back copies of a local or national newspaper that you are interested in
  • Most Record Offices and Local Studies Centres have back copy archives of their local newspapers
  Non Parochial Registers Nonconformist Records
  • After civil registration was started in 1837, two parliamentary commissions were set up to collect registers from Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist and other non Anglican denominations.
  • Many of these collected Nonconformist records are held at the National Archives at Kew - see their catalogue for details.
  • Microfilm copies of these collected Nonconformist records can be viewed at the Family Records Centre
  • Microfilm copies of the collected Nonconformist records for Wales can be viewed at the National Library of Wales
  • Many Nonconformist births or baptisms are indexed in the International Genealogical Index
  • There are several societies with a special interest in tracing Nonconformist ancestors
  Roman Catholic Records
  Jewish Records
  Occupational Apprenticeships
  • From 1710 to 1811 the Commissioners of Stamps kept registers of the duties they received on indentures - these now form the Apprenticeship Books held at the National Archives at Kew
  • These Apprenticeship Books record the names, addresses and trades of the masters together with the names of their apprentices and dates of their indentures - for more details see the National Archives online guide
  Custom and Excise Officers
  • Various documents relating to customs and excise officers dating back to 1671 can be viewed at the National Archives at Kew - consult its online guide for the records held there.
  Dockyard Workers
  • Various documents relating to dockyard workers dating back to 1660 can be viewed at the National Archives at Kew - consult its online guide for the records held there.
  • Various documents relating to attorneys and solicitors dating back to 1656 can be viewed at the National Archives at Kew - consult its online guide for the records held there.
  Medical Practitioners
  • The Guildhall Library holds an extensive archive of records relating to apothecaries, surgeons, physicians and other medical practitioners - consult its online guide for the records held at the library and elsewhere
  Merchant Seamen
  • From 1747 masters of merchant ships were required to keep and file a Muster Roll giving details of the number of crewmen and the ship's voyages
  • From 1835 onwards these Muster Rolls were superceded by Crew Lists
  • The National Archives at Kew hold a whole series of these Muster Rolls and Crew Lists - see its online guides to merchant seamen records relating to the period 1747 to 1860 and that relating to 1861 onwards
  • Check out the Police Index which is an online database of over 70,000 policemen extracted from police magazines and local newspapers for the period 1860 to 1920
    Railway Staff
  • Check out the genealogy page of the Great Eastern Railway Society which provides a helpful guide on tracing railway staff ancestors
    Sugar Refiners
  • A database of some of those involved in the sugar refining industry since the 16th century can be searched online
  Taxation Lay Subsidy Records (1290-1332)
  • Lay Subsidies, a general tax on the personal wealth of individuals (excluding land), was levied between 1290 and 1332
  • Most local record society publications on lay subsidies can be viewed at the National Archives at Kew - consult its online guide to taxation records before 1660 for more information on lay subsidies
  Hearth Tax Records (1662-1689)
  • The Hearth Tax was levied on each hearth in every home during the period 1662 to 1689.
  • These tax records list virtually all heads of households together with the number of heated rooms in their homes (the more hearths the greater the wealth and status of the householder)
  • The only Hearth Tax records surviving are those between 1662 and 1674, most of which are held at the National Archives at Kew
  Land Tax Records (1692-1963)
  • Land Tax was introduced in 1692 and lasted until 1963
  • This tax was administered at local level and based on a tax quota for each parish which did not vary
  • Land tax assessments annually list property owners and their tenants
  • Most of the surviving land tax assessment records in Record Offices relate to the period 1780 to 1832
  • Land tax assessment records for the whole of England and Wales (apart from Flintshire) for the year 1798 can be viewed at the National Archives at Kew
  Death Duty Records (1796 onwards)
  • Death duty registers hold details of wills and bequests for estates liable to death duties.
  • They contain the deceased's name, address and date of death, the approximate value of the estate, and summary information on the deceased's will
  • Microfilmed indexes and registers for the period 1796 to 1857 can be viewed at the Family Records Centre at the National Archives or at your local LDS Family History Centre
  • Indexes for the period 1858 to 1903 can be viewed at the Family Records Centre and at the National Archives
  • Registers however for 1858 to 1903 can only be viewed at the National Archives at Kew and need to be booked at least three days in advance
  • After 1903 records were kept in individual files instead of large registers and have not been preserved
This page last updated: 24 November 2006