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Welcome to birmingham.gov.uk

FAQs for Family History


Birmingham Archives and Heritage is now CLOSED until 3 September 2013 when the Library of Birmingham on Centenary Square will open.

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:

Email: archives.heritage@birmingham.gov.uk

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.

Meanwhile to keep in touch with us, please follow our blog at: http://theironroom.wordpress.com/ and to follow the progress of the new library please see: http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/lob


The Archives and Heritage Service in Birmingham Central Library has a wide range of resources which you may find useful when researching your family history. We have listed below some of the questions which we have received, in case the answers will help you with your research. There are also some websites which you may find useful.

Old photographs

Question:
Do you have a photo of my grandmother's house? She lived in Birmingham in the 1900s. I would like to get hold of a photograph of the old family home.

Answer: We do not hold photographs of every house and street in Birmingham. The
Warwickshire Photographical Survey does include about 26,000 images of Birmingham locations. There is a card index which you can look through to request photos. It is best if you can visit the Archives and Heritage Service to choose the images, but if this is not possible, we can do a free half hour search.

You can see a sample of our photographic collections on:
Digital Birmingham Photo Archive

Local newspapers

Question:
Have you got old Birmingham newspapers here, and can I use them to do my family history?

Answer:
There is a wide range of newspapers in Archives and Heritage, many of which are on microfilm, in the Genealogy section

The newspapers are filmed page by page, day by day. There is no index to the contents of newspapers published before 1998, so the microfilms will be most useful if you know the date of the article you hope to find.

The Archives and Heritage Service also holds the following:

  • the index to Aris's Gazette obituaries for the early to mid nineteenth century
  • inquest news cuttings
  • Birmingham Biography news cuttings.

Employees

Question:
My grandfather worked for the Chad Valley toy company in Harborne. Does the library hold information on their employees, so I can find out when he started working there?

Answer:
The Archives and Heritage Service has newsletters and magazines from some of Birmingham's many firms, and there may be articles about employees in these. You will need to consult the catalogue to check whether there are records of this company in the library. There may be yearbooks, annual reports, and company histories, but these do not tend to list everyone in the company. It is unusual for the library to receive employees' records because usually such details are confidential.

World War I - army records

Question:
My great-grandfather fought in the first world war and he came from Birmingham. Can I find out more about him during the war years?

Answer:
In the Archives and Heritage Service you will find the Army List, Navy List and RAF List where you will find only the officers are listed.

If your great-grandfather received an award, this would be listed in the London Gazette.

If your great-grandfather died in the war, then he may be listed in the Birmingham Roll of Honour. There are lists of those killed in the war indexed by regiment and lists indexed by burial places.
You may also find an entry in the GRO overseas indexes. You could consult the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website, or the Western Front Association.The Commonwealth War Graves Records are also available on CD-ROM. Please ask at the counter on Floor 6 if you are visiting the Central Library.

Electoral registers and the census

Question:
My great-grandparents, Thomas and Susan Ward, lived in Birmingham in the early 1920s. I think it was somewhere near Aston Hall. Could you check the electoral register or the census and tell me the names of the rest of the family?

Answer:
Children would only be listed on the electoral roll if they were old enough to vote - twenty-one years old for men, in the 1920s. Although women were now allowed to vote, until 1928 women could not register until they were thirty years old.
There is no name index for the electoral register, it is indexed by street only. As an alternative you could check the (Kelly's), at this time they included many residential addresses. They would only show the head of household.

Midlands Historical Data This website has some Birmingham Electoral registers for the years 1912/13, 1918 (absent voters list), 1920, 1925, 1930/31 and 1935/36. They are fully searchable by name and are Free to view in Birmingham Libraries. Charges Apply when viewing records from other sites.

Censuses
There is a national name index for 1881 only. For Warwickshire, Norfolk and Devon only there is a name index for the 1851 census.

Ancestry Library Edition is now available FREE on computers in Birmingham Libraries.

Trace your family history using records from England, Wales and Scotland censuses from 1841 to 1911, birth, marriage and death records and UK parish and probate records. |1911 Census online now |

How much, how long?

Question:
How long will it take me to do my family history, and how much will it cost?

Answer:
There is no straightforward answer to this! It is a very good idea to talk with relatives, and friends of the family, before you start. Although they may not be able to provide you with exact dates and names, you may get information which will help you identify members of the family, for example if you find records of two people with exactly the same name - you do have an advantage if your family has an unusual surname. Gather together any documentation - birth certificates and so on - which the family already has.

It is useful to have some idea of where the family lived. If your family lived in another part of the country, you may like to travel to investigate the local records there. A large number of records have not yet been digitised, and are therefore not available on the internet.

So, the amount of time and money you spend on doing your family tree really depends on you.

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