Genealogical research

Tracing your family history is a fascinating activity but must be done carefully and methodically in order to achieve results and it may entail much research using libraries and record offices nationwide.

The Archives, Heritage and Photography section on level 4 has an extensive range of material for tracing families in the Birmingham area, and a more limited amount for families originating from elsewhere.

All archive material, photographic material, older printed material and rare and fragile material are served in the Wolfson Centre for Archival Research. To use the Wolfson Centre it is essential to pre-book a session and to order material in advance. You will need a valid CARN ticket or suitable means of identification showing your name, address and signature.

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Records include:-

  • General Register Office Indexes (GRO/St. Catherine’s House)
    These commenced on 1st July 1837 with the introduction of civil registration of Births, Marriages and Deaths in England and Wales. Microfiche of the quarterly or annual indexes from 1837 to the present day are held. There are also microfiche of the Adoptions Index 1927 onwards, the Civil Partnerships Index 2005 onwards and the Overseas Indexes.
  • International Genealogical Index (IGI)
    These are on microfiche, mainly of baptisms and marriages prior to 1875, cover many churches in Great Britain, Ireland, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and the Caribbean. A more up to date version can be located at www.familysearch.org
  • Census
    Microfiche copies of the ten-yearly returns are available for the Birmingham area from 1841 to 1901. Microfiche for the name indexes to the 1881 census (for the whole of England and Wales) and for various counties for 1851 are available. Some published census returns for Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire are also held. Census returns from 1841 to 1911 are also available via the library subscription to Ancestry (for further details see below).
  • Ancestry Institution Edition
    This is available free of charge on computers in Birmingham libraries. This includes records from England, Scotland and Wales, birth, marriage and death records 1837 to 2005, census from 1841 to 1911, UK parish records, electoral register and probate records. We recommend that you book a session on the library computers in advance of your visit to avoid disappointment.
  • Directories
    British Trade Directories can be found on the public shelves with coverage from the late 18th century to the late 20th century. Additional directories are held in the stack area and prior notice is required to view these. Local telephone directories from 1906 are also held on open access.
  • Newspapers
    Microfilm copies of local newspapers from the mid 18th century to the present day are available. Original copies are served when there is no microfilm and the condition is suitable. These will be served in the Wolfson Centre for Archival Research, also on level 4, and prior notice is required. Biographical news cuttings have been abstracted from these and there is also an index of obituaries from Aris’s Birmingham Gazette up to 1861.
  • Parish Registers
    Most Church of England parish registers for Birmingham are available on microfilm in the open access area. Many of these are also now available on the Ancestry website. However, for some parishes the researcher will need to consult the original register in the Wolfson Centre. There are some Non-Conformist registers and also a large number of printed parish registers for other areas throughout England. Prior notice is required to view the majority of these. We do not hold original Catholic registers.
  • Wills
    The National Wills Index from 1858 to 1998 is available either in book form, microfilm or via the Ancestry website. Birmingham wills from 1858 to 1941 are found in the Wolfson Centre. Some wills and indexes from earlier times are also held.
  • Monumental Inscriptions
    There is a wide selection of published transcripts relating to burial grounds in Warwickshire, Staffordshire and Worcestershire. Monumental Inscriptions for some areas of Birmingham are available on open access in the Heritage Research Area, but advance notice is required to look at Monumental Inscriptions from the 3 counties outside Birmingham.
  • Indexes to Cemetery Burials
    These are held for all local authority cemeteries in Birmingham from the dates of opening up to the mid 1980s (1973 for Brandwood End).
  • Army, Navy and Air Force Lists
    These cover the Officer Class only. The Army List covers 1776 to the present day, the Air Force List 1918 to 2007 and the Navy List 1815 to 1849 and 1861 to 2008/9. Advance notice is required to look at these.
  • Burgess Roll and Electoral registers
    These are available for Birmingham from 1832 to 2001. Current electoral registers for Birmingham are available from the Elections Office
  • Debrett’s Peerage and Baronetage and Burke’s Landed Gentry
    Recent copies of these are shelved in the Heritage Research Area. Previous copies of Burke’s Landed Gentry from 1837 to 1952 and Burke’s Landed Gentry of Ireland 1904 to 1958 are available, but advance notice is required to look at these.
  • Coroner’s Inquests
    A coroner’s Court Roll is available on microfilm from 1839 to 1875. Original coroner’s inquest files from the Birmingham coroner are held from 1875 onwards. Inquests over 75 years of age are available in the Wolfson Centre. To enquire about inquests less than 75 years old contact the Coroner’s Court. There are also some scrapbooks of inquest news-cuttings from 1876. These should be requested prior to visiting the library.