Are you ready to explore your British ancestry “across the pond”? Whether your ancestors arrived on the Mayflower or in early 20th-century steerage, London offers endless research opportunities. The Society of Genealogists and The National Archives will be the main focus of our upcoming NEHGS tour for good reason, and other nearby repositories also have a lot to offer.
The Society of Genealogists (SoG) is the largest genealogical library in the U.K. The SoG has an enormous collection of published, transcribed, and filmed parish registers and local and family histories. In addition, the SoG also has U.K. census records, city directories, poll lists, wills and probate records, and many specialized collections. Users have access to the SoG’s rich collection of microfilmed and fiched source materials, including English, Welsh, Scottish, and some Irish census returns and indexes, indexes to England and Wales births, marriages, and deaths from 1837 onwards, and Scotland indexes to births, marriages, and deaths (1855–1920), plus earlier births and marriages (1553–1854). The library also has the Document Collections of family history research and original documents. The SoG holds published and transcribed local history records, including parish registers and gravestone inscriptions, for every county in the U.K. and thousands of parishes. Also available are family histories and one-name studies, multi-county will indexes, marriage licenses, and much more.
The National Archives is located by the banks of the Thames just outside London in Kew. TNA’s holdings are vast, and include military records for all branches of the service (War Office and Admiralty) up to and including World War I, census schedules for England and Wales, wills and probate records (Prerogative Court of Canterbury, 1383–1858), Death Duty registers, documents from the central courts of law from the 12th century onwards, including the Courts of Chancery, Exchequer, the Central Criminal Court and the Assizes, and records of the Home Office, Foreign Office and Colonial Office, plus much more.
Until some time later in 2013, the London Family History Centre operated by the LDS Church, is located temporarily at TNA while their building is being refurbished. The London FHC has the largest collection of microfilmed genealogical records in the U.K. (Note that all are also available at the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City.) Among the highlights of the microfilmed collection are parish records from more than 9,500 parishes, non-conformist records, parish chest and poor law records, post-1858 record copy wills, Prerogative Court of York record copy wills, and probate records from hundreds of ecclesiastical courts (pre-1858).
The London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) is the place to go if you have ancestors who lived in or around London itself. With more than 70 km of shelves, the LMA holdings include parish registers, electoral registers, land tax records, parish poor relief and Boards of Guardians records, and workhouse records. The Archives also contains records of marriage licenses and wills from the Diocese of London and wills from the Archdeaconry of Surrey. In addition, the LMA has a collection of photographs and prints arranged topographically and by subject, as well as maps and plans including parish maps and bomb damage maps.
The British Library holds the India Office Records that include church records, wills and pension records of British and European residents of India between 1600 and 1947.
The Principal Probate Registry, located in First Avenue House, contains probate records for England and Wales from 1858 to the present. (Note that the Family History Library has microfilmed these records for the period 1858–1925.)
Of course, London has more repositories and resources than we can list here; this is just a sampling of London’s many genealogical offerings.
The NEHGS London Research Tour will be held from May 19 to 26. NEHGS experts David Dearborn and Christopher Child and their counterparts at the SoG and TNA will help participants navigate the vast resources available in London. Daily activities will include expert lectures and tours. Then, from May 27-31, we will travel to the county record offices of Essex, Norfolk, and Suffolk with local experts. Join us for one or both tours and explore records only available in the U.K.!