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Record Office Guide


  • Records Office Guide

    records.jpgThe County Records Office is the place where you will find your primary evidence - a myriad of documents which will be useful in your research.

    This Records Office Guide will explain what is likely to be found there and how it is going to be useful.

    County Record Offices (CRO) are the main repositories for archived records specifically relating to the local area they serve.

    They will generally be the main centre for family history research in the county. Most counties have a single record office serving the whole county. Several counties have multiple record offices serving different areas or boroughs within the county.

    The biggest headache in locating record offices is boundary changes. Records that relate to your area often end up archived in their original shire county despite the introduction of unitary authorities and metropolitan boroughs and counties.

    To view the set up of counties before the changes implemented in 1974, click here.

    The addresses of Record Offices can be found on the relevant page for each county on our UK County Index .

    Each County Record Office (CRO) website is listed on the relevant county page in the Reference Library on the UK County Index. Please refer to this for specific directions and opening times.

    Most research venues require you to have a CARN card (or reader ticket). See below.

    Births Marriages and Deaths

    The system of civil registration of births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales was established on July 1st 1837. The country was divided into registration districts based on poor law unions. Today the system is based on the areas of local authorities. Each registration district is under the control of Superintendent Registrars and divided into sub-districts. Copies of registers are sent to the Registrar General and the indexes are compiled.

    The indexes are divided into quarters for each year up to 1983. Remember that the index relates to the time of registration NOT the time of the event. Since 1984 events have been arranged in alphabetical indexes covering a full year. Exact place of birth is not given, just the name of the Registration District with a different reference numbering system.

    The Office for National Statistics (ONS) Indexes and copies have been distributed nationwide. Some can be viewed in local libraries, County Records Offices or even Local Archive and History Study Centres. You will not be charged for viewing these images. These images are available online but the odd sheet is missing.

    Further Useful Information:
    Registration Districts

    The three lists on Genuki ~ GRO Indexes Registration Districts, provide the reference numbers of the registration districts for births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales.
    • 1837-1851 (Roman numerals)
    • 1852-1946 (Arabic numerals plus a letter)
    • Reference Numbers for each County

    These reference numbers also serve as the Volume identifier in the General Register Office's indexes (at the Family Records Centre in London and many other libraries and family history research centres).

    Roman numerals were used for the reference numbers until 1851 when the districts were modified and Arabic numerals plus a letter were used. As the older register indexes are updated the Roman numerals are being replaced by Arabic numerals.

    Alphabetical listing of locations in England and Wales can be found on:
    Parish Registers

    The term '"Parish Registers"' is taken to include Baptism, Banns, Marriage and Burial Registers of the Church of England. It does not include records of Baptists, Methodists, other nonconformists or Roman Catholics.

    The earliest registers start in 1538 and they are still kept today, although their relevance to the family historian decreases after 1837.

    1538 Basic information for Baptisms, Marriages and Burials
    1754 Witnesses & Signatures added to Marriages
    1813 Father's occupation and abode added to Baptisms and Abode & age added (sometimes occupation) to Burials.
    1837 Age & abode together with Father's name & occupation added to Marriages.

    Most of the parish registers are now stored in a County Record Office, although a few are still in the individual churches.Parish Finder does things like find the distance between two parishes, and the parishes surrounding a given location. This second feature is great when one of your ancestors decided to get married in a parish a few miles away and didn't leave a record of where to look!

    More information about what can be found and when can be seen in:

    FTF Guide: Parish Registers

    Burial Records

    How do I find them?The Bereavement Services Portal

    This page will give you more information about cremation and burial in England and Wales as well advice on visiting cemeteries and graveyards: Searching for the Deceased.

    Census Returns

    Alongside the personal details of your families, one of the most useful sets of documents for you will be the census returns. The census is one of the most useful sets of records available. Placing an ancestor with their parents and siblings when they are young, or finding them in later life with a spouse and children are just a few of the things that can be discovered.

    This guide will give you more information on using these valuable sources of evidence for your research:

    FTF Guide: The Census

    Other Types of Records:

    Using original records: Manuscripts and Special Collections

    FTF Guide: Adoption

    FTF Guide: Coroners' Records

    FTF Guide: Court Sessions and Victuallers Licences

    FTF Guide: Directories: Trade, Street and City

    FTF Guide: Electoral Registers and Poll Books

    FTF Guide: Emigration and Immigration

    FTF Guide: Hospital and Asylum Records

    FTF Guide: Manorial, Land and Estate Deeds

    FTF Guide: Historic Maps

    FTF Guide: Illegitimacy

    FTF Guide: Military and Maritime Records

    FTF Guide: Newspapers

    FTF Guide: Photographs

    FTF Guide: Poor Laws and Workhouses

    FTF Guide: School Records

    FTF Guide: Stillbirth

    FTF Guide: Taxation Records

    FTF Guide: Transcribing Historical Records

    FTF Guide: Wills and Probate

    Visiting a Records Office or Research Venue

    CARN is an abbreviation for County Archive Research NUKCARN card (or reader ticket as they are sometimes called) they are valid at most research venues. Different venues have different systems - some collect your card and return it to you when you leave the centre, others require you to keep it about your person whilst in the centre. Bear in mind that all people using the Research Centre must have a card. Some venues will allow people to sit in reception and wait for you, but not all.

    In March 2020, a new system for cards was launched: The Archives Card Hub

    Take notes with you

    Take notes with you on paper rather than in a book or pad. Some venues strictly enforce the loose sheets onlyBe comfortable

    Some CROs have air conditioning, essential for preservation of documents, so wear layers and comfortable shoes and clothing that is easy to reach, stretch and sit in.

    Wash your hands before you enter the search rooms if you can, and again if hands get sweaty - sweaty hands make for dirty documents! Pay a visit to the toilet before you enter the search room, since you may be halfway through looking at a vital fiche that the staff will require you to put away before leaving the room - very irritating!

    Look around at the other people that are searching as well. Some will appear to know exactly what they are doing, and more than happy to help you wind a spool onto a fiche reeler. Some people will look as though they own the chair/the book/the entire Records Office (woe betide you...!) But remember - they were all first timers once upon a time too.

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