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:

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, 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:

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).

The following books also give detailed information about English certificates:

Finding births, marriages and deaths pre-1837

Church registers where baptisms, marriages and burials are recorded are used for finding births, marriages and deaths occurring 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, or microfiche. 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 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. Along with many other CDROM resources produced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, this resource is currently being moved to the FamilySearch online catalogue. Between 2021 - 2022 please go to the Family History Library and use their Record Lookup service to request information from the CDROM resource.
  • 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 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.
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