FAQs about Birmingham, past and present
Staff are working on our collections to check, document and repackage thousands of items ready for their transfer to the new building during this time. This work will be our major task and consequently we are not able to respond individually to enquiries until after September 2013.
However, if you are specifically requesting personal information held about yourself, a member of staff will contact you to discuss this further:
For all other enquiries, please contact us again once we open in the new Library of Birmingham.
We regret the inconvenience this is likely to cause to our users. A new Library of Birmingham website will be launched soon. Details of the services we will be providing from September will appear in due course as well as contact details for the new Library.
The Archives and Heritage Service has a wide range of resources; information about Birmingham present and past, Birmingham newspapers, maps, photos, local guides, and history.
Listed below are some of the questions we have received, in case the answers will help you with your research. There are also some weblinks to sites which may be useful to you.
Can I check the electoral register to find out where my uncle is living now? In 1978 he was living on the Walsall Road, but I cant remember the number.
We only have the electoral registers for the area inside the Birmingham city boundary, so it would depend whereabouts on the Walsall Road your uncle lived. The electoral register only lists those who are entitled to vote, and who have registered. There is no name index; it is indexed by address (street). You can come to look through electoral registers up to 2001 at any time the library is open.
Current Electoral Registers
Current Electoral Registers for Birmingham, from March 2001, are only available at the Elections Office in Great Charles Street, Tel: (0121) 303 2731.
The Archives and Heritage Service holds the historical electoral registers for Birmingham, 1838 - February 2001. If you would like someone to check the address for you, contact the Genealogist firstname.lastname@example.org
From March 2008 there is a charge of 5 per half hour, 5 per hour of research time.
For more information, go to Electoral Registers.
Birmingham - local information and history
I am doing a project about Birmingham. Could you please send me some information?
In the Archives and Heritage Service, Floor 6, Birmingham Central Library, you will find a lot of information about different parts of Birmingham. There are books about the local history, photo books from which you could copy illustrations, photos, maps, trade directories which tell you who was living on a certain street, local newspapers, and other relevant material. The library is open 9am - 8pm on weekdays, 9am -5pm on Saturdays.
Here are some other web sites on which you will find information about Birmingham.
Please note, we are not responsible for the content of other organisations' websites.
Commercial site giving information about different areas of the city
I would like to find out who owns a property. How can I do this?
To find out who owns a certain property you will need to contact the Land Registry. For Birmingham, contact the Coventry branch; Tel: 024 7686 0860. There is a charge of £4 for a copy from the register, to show you who owns the property; and of £4 for a copy of the Title Plan. If there is more than one Title for the property, there is a charge of £4 for each Title. For full details you can check the website HM Land Registry
Which local newspapers do you have? Could I buy a copy of an old newspaper for a present?
Most of our old newspapers are Birmingham publications, there are a few older titles for Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Staffordshire. The principal ones are Aris's (Birmingham ) Gazette 1741 - 1956, The Birmingham Post 1857 onwards, The Birmingham Mail 1870 onwards, the Sports Argus, and the Sunday Mercury.
You can view these on microfilm in the Archives and Heritage Service at any time the library is open. Local newspapers for the current month, and past three months, are in Social Sciences on Floor 4.
An index to local newspapers from January 1998 is available on computers in all Birmingham libraries and on other computers if you have a library card. There is no index to earlier newspapers, but there are cuttings in the Archives and Heritage Service for certain topics, arranged by date, which may help with your search. These include biographical newscuttings. If an event was important enough to be reported nationally, you can search the Times Digital Archive or the index to The Times in Social Sciences.
We do not hold copies of newspapers for sale. If you know the exact date, and title of an article, you can request a copy; there is a minimum charge of £1 and 35p for each additional A4 page, or 70p for A3 pages. If you do not know the date and title, and wish someone to search for you, the charge is £10 per half hour of search time. The quality of the films, and therefore of the reproductions, is variable. There are commercial organisations which sell old copies of national newspapers, for example Past Times.
Birmingham historical newspapers
Do you have any films of old Birmingham? Can I borrow them, or obtain a copy?
There are videos and DVDs in the Archives and Heritage Service on a wide range of subjects of local interest. Some have been commercially produced, such as the videos on the River Rea, and the River Cole. Some are amateur videos, for example films of Birmingham in the 1930s. Some are from television companies - programmes or news items about an aspect of Birmingham life. These are for viewing in the library only. They are all in copyright, so cannot be copied. There are videos to rent in the Central Lending Library on Floor 1. You can also buy videos of old Birmingham and Sutton Coldfield from the Archives and Heritage Service (A Journey through Time).
How can I find out more about my house in the past, and who lived there?
There is a wide range of resources in the Archives and Heritage Service which could help with this. Large-scale old maps will give an idea of when the road itself was first built, and when houses began to appear. Electoral registers may help, though voting rights were quite restricted in the past (see FAQs - Family History ). Trade directories are the most useful as from around 1850 onwards some of them include Street indexes. In these streets are listed in alphabetical order, and there are entries for many of the houses and businesses along the road.
The Archives and Heritage Service hold plans for some of Birmingham's buildings and historical sales details for a few houses.
Can I get a copy of a map showing the road where I live, in Moseley, for the 1930s and the 1970s?
There are many local and historical maps in the Archives and Heritage Service. The most useful to you for this enquiry will probably be the 1:2,500 Ordnance Survey map of Moseley, 4th edition for the late 1930s. For the 1970s you would need to check the index to the 1:1250 maps, and ask for a superseded version.
Ordnance Survey copyright lasts for 50 years, so you can copy as much as you want of a 1930s map. The 1970s map is still in copyright, so you will need to ask staff at the counter if you can have a copy; this will depend on what the copy is to be used for. You will only be allowed to have an A4 section copied.
An old Birmingham business
I have inherited a silver cup. It has on it: Elkington's, Birmingham. Could I find out any more about this firm?
The trade directories are a good starting-point for finding out when a firm traded, what it manufactured, and where it was based at different times. There is usually a commercial index, which lists traders alphabetically; and a section which lists them according to trade, as in Yellow Pages. The Archives and Heritage Service also has old Birmingham phone-books. The first one was printed in the 1880s.
Archives and Heritage trade catalogue
There are indexes and specialist information about some of Birmingham's trades; for example gunmakers, silversmiths and photographers. There are also some trade catalogues. Ask a member of staff, or have a look in the catalogue to find further information.
Please note We are not responsible for the content ofother organisations' websites.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for family history
CD-ROMs & the Internet for family history
International Genealogical Index (IGI)
Parish Registers - Church of England
Black Family History - African & African-Caribbean