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There are many useful resources for researching Welsh 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: Monmouthshire, Wale and the type of source e.g. Wales Gazetteers

The following guides to researching Welsh ancestors are available in the Genealogy Centre on the 3rd floor:

Welsh Family History: A Guide to Research

Second Stages in Researching Welsh Ancestry

In Search of Welsh Ancestry

The Family Tree Detective : A Manual for Tracing your Ancestors in England and Wales

National Library of Wales -  online family history content available from the Family History page. Also go to Search Archival Data bases for online indexes to marriage licences 1616-1837, court records 1730-1830, pre-1858 wills and more.

Archives Wales - this website has an online catalogue of historical resources in 21 archives throughout Wales.

GENUKI Wales - the section for Wales in the GENUKI: UK & Ireland Genealogy website has pages for each county as well as information for the whole of Wales.

WalesGenWeb - pages for each county, links to other websites, message boards and mailing lists.

BBC - Wales - the BBC website has information on Welsh family history research. It includes advice for beginners, information on Welsh naming practices and more.

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

Association of Family History Societies of Wales - this site has information on family history societies in Wales with links to their individual websites.

Births, marriages & deaths

The official recording of births, marriages and deaths by the government, known as civil registration, began in Wales 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 Wales see: An introduction to British civil registration and FamilySearch wiki on civil registration in Wales

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 (births and marriages in Wales & England 1837 - 2005; deaths 1837 - 2007) . 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  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. (Note this resource can only be accessed within the Library).

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

UKBMD - a volunteer project which has involved transcribing local register office indexes rather than the national index. It is not as complete as FreeBMD but may be a useful alternative. Indexes for North Wales are being transcribed as part of this project at North Wales BMD.

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. Four separate microfilm reels or microfiche (Jan-Mar; Apr-Jun; Jul-Aug; Sep-Dec) exist for each year.

Ordering certificates

Welsh birth, marriage and death certificates contain much less information than those for Australia. For a detailed breakdown of information recorded, see the Library guide: Information found on certificates for Australian states, New Zealand and the British Isles (PDF 34KB).  The information recorded on certificates depends on the knowledge of the person who was informing the registrar. 

The following books also give detailed information about Welsh 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 occurring prior to 1837. These events continued to be recorded by churches after 1837, so parish registers also provide information after this date. 

Findmypast - this website has an extensive collection of Welsh parish registers which have been indexed and digitised. This collection includes: Baptisms - over two million records covering 1538-1912, Marriages - over one million records covering 1539-1927, Marriage banns - over half a million records covering 1603-1927 and Burials -  over two million records covering 1539-2007. (Note this resource can only be accessed within the Library).

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

GENUKI Wales - 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 on their website.

International Genealogical Index (IGI) on the FamilySearch website. The IGI contains births and marriages and not deaths. 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 Family Search Library Catalogue to see what is available and obtain the relevant microfilm number for ordering.

Ancestry Library Edition - there are a few parish registers for Wales available on Ancestry.

British Isles Vital Records 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.

National Burial Index (NBI) - covers England and Wales and has over 18 million burials from a variety of denominations from 1538 onwards. It is not a complete index of burials but includes many records put together by family history societies and groups. The Welsh counties with the best coverage are Glamorganshire and Cardiganshire. As well as being available on CD-ROM the NBI can be searched on  Findmypast.


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 Wales 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 family historian’s guide - information about the censuses see this key work published by The National Archives in 2014. It includes tips for searching online censuses and comparisons of the various commercial sites.

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 15 September 2021