#HeritageAtHome – Family History

  • 30th December 2020

Christmas is often a time when people think about family stories and the past, as it’s a time when many of us meet up with or speak to family. This can inspire us to research our family history beyond what is known, and to check out the family stories we’ve heard.

This year many of us haven’t been able to see family face to face this holiday time, but have been telephoning or video calling. Perhaps questions about your family members from the past could be part of a conversation, encouraging the sharing of memories. Or see if siblings and cousins have any collections of documents, letters, photos or a Family Bible which could help. If you are off until the new year you may also have some free time to look into things.

One bonus at the moment is that Ancestry and Find My Past, the two big family history websites, are free to access at home at present. Usually you need to come to The Hive to use them, but since April they have allowed our customers to use them free of charge at home.

If you are thinking of starting your family history here are a few tips we give people before they start searching:

  1. Gather any information you have. If you are speaking to relatives ask them what they know, see if anyone in the family has already started researching, or has keep old family photos, letters and certificates. A lot of this information can’t be found in official records, so it’s really useful to gather as many family memories and personal records as possible. Family stories may have to be checked out, but often have some truth in them.
  2. Jot down what you know. You might also want to write a brief family tree to help you work out what you know and need to find out. A simple chart can be found here.
  3. After that you will need to search family history sources, such as the census and birth/marriage/death indexes.


We have a 70 page pdf booklet which goes into detail about the family history sources, what is available and how they can help you.  Find out more about the booklet here.

During the summer looked at two of key sources for family history, the Census and Civil Registration, giving some tips from our experience, which you may want to look at.

More and more family history information is online, although not everything! The two big website are Ancestry and Find My Past, who have billions of names to search, including Civil Registration (births, marriages and deaths), Census, some Parish Registers and Military records. These are subscription website, which you usually either pay to access at home, or can use free in The Hive. Since the start of the pandemic, with archive and library services restricted, they have kindly allowed them to be accessed to our users free of charge at home.

Ancestry – log on to your library account, and then go to online resources to use the website.

Find My Past – email with your library card number and we’ll send the username and password.

Good luck in your searching.


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