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By David Curtis DearbornSenior Genealogist
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Whether your ancestors arrived on the Mayflower or came over during the 19th century to work in New England’s mill towns, most New Englanders who were here by the early 1800s trace the bulk of their ancestry back to England. NEHGS has one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of English genealogical resources in North America. Most of our material is place-specific, so it helps if you know where in England you want to research. Fortunately, the collection contains not only finding aids to help you narrow your search, but also resources to help you find what has already been done, so you won’t have to “re-invent the wheel.” This subject guide highlights key records and resources available at NEHGS, online, and beyond. It also provides how-to tips and contextual information important to your research. For tips and resources on early New England ancestry, visit our 17th-C. New England Research subject guide.
Genealogical Research in England and Wales, 3 vols. by David E. Gardner and Frank SmithNEHGS, Research Library CS414 .G3 1956The best all around “how-to” dealing with the records as the genealogist finds them. While the locations of some of these records have changed since these books were printed (1956–1964), the discussion of the records themselves is still correct.
In Search of British Ancestry by Gerald Hamilton-EdwardsNEHGS, Research Library CS414 .H35 1983A highly readable introduction to English genealogy, in the style of Gilbert Doane's Searching for Your Ancestors.
Everyone Has Roots by Anthony J. CampNEHGS, Research Library CS414 .C35 1978A thoughtful, but highly readable look at English genealogy from the Common Man's view, with opinions of some of the problems faced by (and caused by) American ancestor-seekers; written by one of England's foremost genealogists.
In Search of Your British and Irish Roots by Angus BaxterNEHGS, 7th Floor Reference CS414 .B38 1999Useful for addresses of all county record offices (important since the county boundaries and names were changed in 1974).
Ancestral Trails: The Complete Guide to British Genealogy and Family History by Mark D. HerberNEHGS, Research Library CS414 .H47 2006Very comprehensive and up to date. Good examples of many different types of records.
American & British Genealogy & Heraldry: A Selected List of Books by P. William FilbyNEHGS, 7th Floor Reading Rm Z5311 .F55 1975 (2nd ed.); Z5311 .F55 1983 (3rd ed.); Z5311 .F55 1983 Suppl (Supplement to 3rd ed.)The premier bibliography in our field. No genealogist’s library should be without this book.
“Royal and Noble Genealogy” by John Insley Coddington in Genealogical Research: Methods and Sources (GRMS) edited by Milton Rubincam NEHGS, 1st Floor Rotunda CS16 .A5Describes essential books for researching the royal and noble houses of Europe—genealogical books on the Continent almost invariably deal exclusively with nobility and royalty. Many of the books mentioned can be found at the NEHGS library. Note: The second edition of GRMS (1980) failed to mention many valuable new books in Coddington’s essay; the first edition (1960) is preferable. See also: “Bibliography for Research in British and Continental Royal and Noble Lineages and Heraldry” by Michael K. Smith.
Index to Genealogical Periodicals, Together with “My Own Index” by Donald Lines Jacobus, rev. ed. by Carl Boyer, 3rdNEHGS, 7th Floor Reading Rm Z5313.U5 J22 1988A master surname index to all genealogical periodicals through 1952 and to many “all my ancestor”-type genealogies. Valuable for finding English origins and articles correcting errors in printed genealogies.
The Best Genealogical Sources in Print by Gary Boyd RobertsNEHGS, 7th Floor Reference Z5313.U5 R63 2004
Shaking Your Family Tree: A Basic Guide to Tracing Your Family’s Genealogy by Ralph J. CrandallNEHGS, 1st Floor Rotunda CS16 .C77 2001Page189, Appendix B: Major genealogical compendia, gives a quick and handy list of the best genealogical sources for British and Continental princely, noble, or historically prominent families.
“Eight Ways to Cross the Ocean” by Leslie Albrecht Huber in Family Chronicle, 8:2 (Nov/Dec 2003): 54NEHGS, 1st Floor Rotunda CS38 .F3 1996Eight essential sources that can aid in the search for tracing ancestors across the Atlantic.
A Genealogist's Bibliography by Cecil R. Humphrey-SmithNEHGS, Research Library CS414 .H86 1985A county-by-county list of published sources.
A New Bibliography of British Genealogy with Notes by Marion J. KaminkowNEHGS, Research Library CS414 .K36 1965Arranged by type of record and by county. A useful book as it contains, among other things, a bibliography of all the Victoria County Histories published to date.
A Catalogue of British Family Histories by T. R. ThomsonNEHGS, Research Library CS414 .T495 1981Published genealogies arranged by family surname.
List of Works Relating to British Genealogy and Local HistoryNEHGS, Rare Book Collection CS414 .N49 1910Lists all the “great” county histories, such as Ormerod’s Cheshire, Hasted’s Kent, etc.
Texts and Calendars: An Analytical Guide to Serial Publications, 2 vols. by E. L. C. Mullins NEHGS, Research Library DA20 .R92 no. 7A volume-by-volume list of the contents of all the official, national, and local society series, including: the Place Names Society, British Records Society, Harleian Society, Catholic Records Society, Huguenot Society of London, Pipe Roll Society, Surtees Society, and the Lancashire and Cheshire Record Society.
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 60 vols. plus supplementNEHGS, 7th Floor Reference DA28 .O94 2004
Who's WhoNEHGS, Vault DA28 .W6NEHGS has vols. covering scattered select years from 1927 to 1982.
An Index to Biographical and Obituary Notices in the Gentleman's Magazine, 1731–1780 by Robert Henry FarrarNEHGS, Rare Book Collection AP4 .G31 1891 Useful for 18th-century English and American loyalists.
The Gentleman's Magazine Biographical and Obituary Notices 1781–1819, an Index by Benjamin NangleNEHGS, 7th Floor Reference AP4 .G32 1980
Alumni Cantabrigienses, 2 parts in 10 vols. by John and J. A. VennNEHGS, Vault Rare Book Collection LF124 .A2 1900aList of all students, graduates, and officeholders to 1900.
Alumni Oxonienses, 2 parts in 8 vols. by Joseph FosterNEHGS, Vault Rare Book Collection LF524 .A22 1500-1714 (Part I); LF524 .A22 1715-1886 (Part II)Similar to above; coverage to 1886.
“Bibliography of the Registers (Printed) of the Universities, Inns of Court, Colleges, and Schools of Great Britain and Ireland” by Hester E. Raven-Hart and Marjorie Johnston in Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research, 9 (1931–32): 19–30, 65–83, 154–70NEHGS, Vault Da .L65 1923-1986
In Search of the “Forlorn Hope”: A Comprehensive Guide to Locating British Regiments and Their Records (1640–WW I) by John M. KitzmillerNEHGS, 7th Floor Reference UA649 .K56 1988
In Search of Army Ancestry by Gerald Hamilton-EdwardsNEHGS, Research Library CS415 .H36 1977
Naval Records for the Genealogist by N. A. M. RodgerNEHGS, Research Library CS415 .R62 1988
Family Tree Magazine NEHGS, Research Library CS410 .F33Monthly; vol. 1– (1984– ). Aimed at a British audience rather than the American market, but still useful.
Genealogist’s MagazineNEHGS, Research Library CS410 .S61Published quarterly by the Society of Genealogists, London; vol. 1– (1925– ). Contains scholarly articles, news, recent acquisitions, and queries. An important resource as it is the journal of the largest and most influential genealogical society in England.
Ancestors: the Family History Magazine of the Public Record OfficeNEHGS, Research Library CS410 .A53Nos. 1–94 (2001–2010). This bi-monthly magazine is packed with useful and richly illustrated articles; most are based on records available at the PRO in Kew. It ceased publication in 2010.
International Society for British Genealogy and Family History Newsletter NEHGS, Vault CS410 .I5Published quarterly; vol. 1– (1979– )
National Genealogical Directory edited by Michael J. BurchallNEHGS, Research Library CS412 .N6Annual; vol. 1– (1979– ). Contains tens of thousands of queries submitted by genealogists from all over the world interested primarily in English ancestors.
Genealogical Research Directory, National and International by Keith A. Johnson and Malcolm R. SaintyNEHGS, 7th Floor Reference CS5 .G4 2004Annual; 1988– . Features queries concerning English ancestors with a special interest in Australia.
Local Newspapers 1750–1920: England and Wales; Channel Islands; Isle of Man; A Select Location List compiled by Jeremy Gibson, Brett Langston, and Brenda W. Smith NEHGS, 7th Floor Reference CS415 .G536 1989
NEHGS has more than 12 million individual manuscript pieces in the R. Stanton Avery Special Collections. The collections listed below may help shed light on an aspect of your English ancestry or even break down a genealogical brick wall. You must be an NEHGS member to access these materials. Learn more about NEHGS Special Collections.
Pedigrees of Families of Great Britain, 50 vols. indexedNEHGS, Manuscript Collection SG HOW 4  Descendants of the Emperor Charlemagne (mainly English lines).
Joseph Gardner Bartlett Collection, 18 cartons, 21 boxes, 2 bundlesNEHGS, Manuscripts SG BAR 86 The result of many years of abstracting original English records relating to the ancestry of early New Englanders.
George Andrews Moriarty Papers 1740–1963, 22 boxesNEHGS, Manuscripts Mss 937Brilliant scholarship on many medieval English and Continental lines.
Richard Grosvenor Bartelot Collection, 10 boxesNEHGS, Manuscripts SG BAR 60 Abstracts of many West Country parish registers, especially southern Dorset.
Horatio Gates Somerby CollectionNEHGS, Manuscripts SG SOM 5 Abstracts of many original medieval English documents relating to the ancestry of early New Englanders.
John Insley Coddington Papers, 159 boxesNEHGS, Manuscripts Mss 440One of the largest and most brilliant collections NEHGS has ever acquired. The result of Mr. Coddington's delving over the years into the ancestry of many American, English, and Continental families.
There are millions of records you can access in the United Kingdom, the United States, or online. The resources listed below will aid you in locating, accessing, and understanding records important to your English research. Note: The list of types of records below is by no means exhaustive. It is meant to provide information about some basic resources.
International Genealogical Index (IGI), searchable for free at familysearch.org.Contains over 200 million records with worldwide coverage. About 40% of the IGI is devoted to England, however, the coverage is very uneven from one county to the next. When used properly it can be one of the most effective tools for identifying the English home of early New England settlers. It is also very useful for localizing clusters of families bearing unusual or regional surnames.
A census for England, Wales, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man was taken every ten years since 1801 with the exception of 1941. The 1841 census was the first to list the names of every individual. You can search the census records for 1841 to 1911 through The National Archives website, however you will be directed to paid providers to view the original records. These censuses (1841 to 1911) are indexed and available for free at familysearch.org. You can also view the returns on microfilm at local and county record offices in the UK and at Family History Centers. Learn more about these historical censuses.
The Censuses 1841–1881: Use and Interpretation by Eve McLaughlinNEHGS, Vault CS415 .M388 1985
Marriage and Census Indexes for Family Historians edited by Jeremy Gibson and Elizabeth HampsonNEHGS, Research Library CS415 .M367 2000
Parish registers are key resources for finding ancestors in England prior to 1837. From 1538 until 1837 (year civil registration began), a parish was responsible for recording all baptisms, marriages, and burials within the community. Many have been indexed and are available at familysearch.org; Free Reg; and UKBMD (links to other websites that offer online transcriptions of UK births, marriages, and deaths). Some registers are also available at AmericanAncestors.org (accessible by NEHGS members):
Parish registers are now housed at county record offices across the UK. The following resources will assist you in locating and navigating these records and repositories.
English Record Offices and Archives, www.oz.net/~markhow/englishros.htmProvides a listing of record office and archives locations and websites.
England Jurisdictions 1851, maps.familysearch.org/An interactive map showing parishes, local jurisdictions, and more by county.
British Access to Archives (A2A) Project, www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/a2a/
New to Kew? A First Time Guide for Family Historians at the Public Record Office, Kew by Jane CoxNEHGS, Vault CD 1043.3 .C69 1997
The Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers edited by Cecil R. Humphery-SmithNEHGS, 7th Floor Reference CS415 .P54 2003County-by-county topographical and parish maps showing the earliest date of parish register and in what pre-1858 ecclesiastical probate jurisdiction it lay. The Index lists all parishes by county, indicating the range, condition, and location of the parish registers, and whether they have been indexed or published. Contains the most comprehensive and up-to-date list of parishes with a guide to which are deposited in local record offices, and which are covered by Phillimore's or Boyd's Marriage Indexes below.
Genealogical Resources in English Repositories by Joy Wade MoultonNEHGS, 7th Floor Reference CS414 .M68 1988
Original Parish Registers in Record Offices and LibrariesNEHGS, International Collection 1st Floor CD1068.A2 O74Besides the lists, these are useful for current addresses of county record offices.
A Key to Boyd's Marriage IndexNEHGS, 7th Floor Reference CS434 .S6 1963
National Index of Parish Registers, 13 vols. by Donald J. SteelNEHGS, 7th Floor Reference CD1068.A2 N3Vols. 1 and 2 (sources for births, marriages, and deaths before 1837) are extremely valuable, especially for those looking for non-conformists and recusants.
Village Records by John WestNEHGS, Research Library DA1 .W45 1962Covers parish registers, maps, quarter session papers, probates, hearth tax returns, enclosures, manorial court rolls, lay subsidy rolls, inquisitions post mortem, monumental brasses, and more.
Town Records by John WestNEHGS, Research Library DA690.A1 W47 1983
The Parish Chest: A Study of the Records of Parochial Administration in England by W. E. TateNEHGS, Vault CD1068.A2 T43 1969Discusses local civil and ecclesiastical records.
Record Offices: How to Find Them by Jeremy Gibson and Pamela Peskett NEHGS, Vault CD1040 .G53 1998Includes detailed maps showing location of all county record offices.
“English Genealogical Research: Using Chancery Court Proceedings” by Ronald A. Hill National Genealogical Society Quarterly, 91 (2003): 111–38NEHGS, 1st Floor Rotunda CS42 .N4See also: online Equity Database, records.pro.gov.uk/equity, which provides access to one section of the Six Clerks records from 1648 to 1712 (over 30,000 cases, many testamentary).
Crockford’s Clerical DirectoryNEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks BX5031 .C8 (1924, 1929, and 1937 eds.)An annual publication, useful for giving name and address of each parish and the pastor’s name.
Friends House Library Digest Registers of Births, Marriages and Burials for England and Wales, 17th c.–1837, 32 microfilm reelsNEHGS, Microtext Floor CS432.F89 F73Quaker parish register entries for England and Wales.
After 1837, the government was responsible for recording all births, marriages, and deaths in England and Wales. These records are kept at the superintendent registrar’s district office, but can be searched and ordered from online:
Free BMD, freebmd.rootsweb.com/Free BMD (Free Births Marriages Deaths) grants free access to Civil Registration information for England and Wales, for 1837 to 1902. The database contains more than 215 million records.
Civil Registration Certificates for England and Wales (order form), www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/default.asp
Learn more about Civil Registrations in England and Wales.
Probate records provide an incredible amount of information not only about the deceased, but also family members and beneficiaries. Learn more about English probate records.
Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills Online, discovery.nationalarchives.gov.ukService offered by the Public Records Office (1384–1858). Search of the index is free; images of the actual wills may be downloaded to a PDF format for a £3.50 fee, payable by credit card. Note: wills are also available on film from the Family History Library.
Genealogical Gleanings in England, 2 vols. by Henry F. Waters NEHGS, Research Library CS411 .W39 1969Abstracts of Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC) wills relating to the pre-American ancestry of New England settlers; originally published in the Register, 1883–99.
Wills and Their Whereabouts by Anthony J. CampNEHGS, 7th Floor Reading Rm CS434 C3 1963Essential for understanding English probate, determining where to look, and finding what's in print.
The Index Library, 125 vols. (Microfiche)NEHGS, Microfiche Collection CS434 .B7 MicroficheThis set contains most of the published probate indexes referred to in Camp (above), including, with a few breaks noted below, the index to all PCC wills and admons to 1700.
Abstracts of Probates and Sentences in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (1620–53), 8 vols. edited by John and George F. MatthewsThis set is referred to commonly as the“Year Book of Probates” and is invaluable because it covers the time period of the “Great Migration” to New England.
Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills, Sentences, and Probate Acts, 1661–1670 (Inclusive) by J. H. MorrisonNEHGS, Research Library CS435.C4 A435 1935Fills another gap in the Index Libraryseries.
Prerogative Court of Canterbury Index to Wills and Admons,1701–1749NEHGS, Microfiche Collection CS435.C4 I63 1998 Microfiche
An Index to the Wills Proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, 1750–1800, 6 vols. edited by Anthony J. CampNEHGS, Research Library CS434 .C3 1976
Somerset House Wills From 1858 by Eve McLaughlinNEHGS, Vault CS415 .M386 1985
Manorial records include all information bound to a specific manor. The Manorial Documents Register is an online catalog that provides the location and nature of manorial documents for select counties.
Manorial Records: An Introduction to Their Transcription and Translation by Denis StuartNEHGS, Research Library CS415 .S78 1992
“Manorial Records: Indexes, images and transcriptions to locate online” by Jane Cavell in Family Tree Magazine, 20:7 (May 2004): 38–40NEHGS, Research Library CS410 .F33
“The Manorial Documents Register” by John Gurney in Ancestors, Issue 23 (July 2004): 28–35NEHGS, Research Library CS410 .A53
Heraldic visitations refer to “tours of inspection” conducted by the Kings of Arms between 1530 and 1688 in England, Wales, and Ireland. The records of these visits provide important information for genealogists.
Visitation Pedigrees and the Genealogist by G. D. SquibbNEHGS, Research Library CS419 .S69 1978Discussion and list of printed visitations.
An Index to the Pedigrees and Arms Contained in the Heralds’ Visitation by Richard SimsNEHGS, Research Library CS419 .S56 1849
Harleian Society Publications, 117 plus 18 vols. to dateNEHGS, Research Library CS410 .H3Most of the published heralds’ visitations have appeared in this set over the years.
Handbook of Dates for Students of English History edited by C. R. CheneyNEHGS, 7th Floor Reading Rm DA34 .C5 1945Coverage from Roman times to the twentieth century. Includes a bibliography and index.
Handbook of British Chronology edited by Sir F. Maurice Powicke and E. B. FrydeNEHGS, Research Library DA20 .R92 no.2Lists: all officers of the state; archbishops and bishops of England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland; all members of the peerage; and all sessions of Parliament.
The Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers edited by Cecil R. Humphery-SmithNEHGS, 7th Floor Reference CS415 .P54 2003County-by-county topographical and parish maps showing the earliest date of parish register and in what pre-1858 ecclesiastical probate jurisdiction it lay. The Index lists all parishes by county, indicating the range, condition, and location of the parish registers, and whether they have been indexed or published. Contains the most comprehensive and up-to-date list of parishes with a guide to which are deposited in local record offices, and which are covered by Phillimore's or Boyd's Marriage Indexes (listed above).
A Genealogical Gazetteer of England by Frank SmithNEHGS, Research Library DA640 .S6 1968An alphabetical dictionary of places with their location, ecclesiastical jurisdiction, population, and the date of the earliest entry in the register of every ancient parish in England.
3 Miles to 1 Inch Road Atlas of Great BritainNEHGS, 7th Floor Reference G1811.P2 J6Standard road atlas; gives good detail and is well indexed.
AA Auto maps 3 Mile Road Atlas of BritainNEHGS, 7th Floor Reference G1812.2.P2 A8 1987More up-to-date than the one above; shows modern motorways and county boundaries; however, doesn't provide the same level of detail.
Survey of English Place-Names, 87 vols. to dateNEHGS, Research Library DA645 .A4
Great Britain Family Names Profiling, gbnames.publicprofiler.org/Offers surname distribution maps for England, Wales, and Scotland as of 1881 or 1998.
The Genealogist’s Guide by George W. MarshallNEHGS, Rare Book Collection CS414 .M375 1885An alphabetical surname index to English pedigrees found in local or county histories, national and local periodicals, transactions of county archaeological and record societies, etc., covering at least three generations. An absolutely essential work for English genealogy. Covers all printed works to 1903.
A Genealogical Guide by J. B. Whitmore NEHGS, 7th Floor Reference CS414 .W45 1953An update and continuation of Marshall’s The Genealogist’s Guide, covering 1903–47.
The Genealogist’s Guide by Geoffrey B. BarrowNEHGS, 7th Floor Reference CS414 .B37 1977An update and continuation of Marshall and Whitmore (listed above), 1950–77.
Burke’s Family IndexNEHGS, 7th Floor Reference CS420 .B849 1976A master surname index to all the entries that have appeared in the many Burke’s publications over the years.
Homes of Family Names in Great Britain by Henry B. GuppyNEHGS, Research Library CS2502 .G85Useful for locating family names; still the only book that gives relative distributions of surnames according to counties.
A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames, With Special American Instances by Charles W. E. BardsleyNEHGS, Research Library CS2505 .B3 1901Over 30,000 entries, with origin and meaning.
The Origin of English Surnames by Percy H. Reaney NEHGS, Research Library CS2505 .R41 1967Useful for finding variants of names. Over 20,000 surnames are listed.
A Dictionary of Surnames by Patrick Hanks and Flavia Hodges with Special consultant for Jewish names, David L. GoldNEHGS, 7th Floor Reading Rm CS2385 .H27 1988An overall work, not limited to English surnames, but authoritative.
Note: Consult the volumes in the “English Surname Series” cataloged in the CS 2509 section at the NEHGS research library. The series currently covers the counties of Oxford, West Riding of Yorkshire, Norfolk and Suffolk (medieval), and Lancashire.
The Handwriting of English Documents by L. C. HectorNEHGS, International Collection 1st Floor Z115.E5 H4 1966A basic guide to the complexities of interpreting medieval and Elizabethan handwriting used in public documents.
Elizabethan Handwriting 1500–1650 by Giles E. Dawson and Laetitia Kennedy-SkiptonNEHGS, International Collection 1st Floor Z115.E5 D3 1981Fifty examples of secretary hand showing plate of original and transcription.
English Court Hand A.D. 1066 to 1500 by Charles Johnson and Hilary JenkinsonNEHGS, International Collection 1st Floor Z115.E5 J54Examples of the hands used by different government agencies and a valuable history of the writing of each individual letter.
Genealogical Research in England and Wales, 3 vols. by David E. Gardner and Frank Smith NEHGS, Research Library CS414 .G3 1956Vol. 3 discusses palaeography (the study of ancient writing).
The Record Interpreter by Charles T. MartinNEHGS, International Collection 1st Floor Z111 .M23 1910A collection of abbreviations, Latin words, and names used in English historical manuscripts and records.
“Help with Handwriting” by Peter Christian in Ancestors, Issue 25 (September 2004): 34–35NEHGS, Research Library CS410 .A53
International Society for British Genealogy and Family History, www.isbgfh.orgSociety of Genealogists, www.sog.org.ukFederation of Family History Societies, www.ffhs.org.uk--Search a full listing of their member organizations here.
GENUKI—The UK & Ireland Genealogical Information Service, www.genuki.org.uk/Provides easy access to genealogical information pertaining to the British Isles.
Cyndi's List of Genealogy Sites on the Internet—England and Great Britain, www.cyndislist.com/england.htm
The National Archives online catalog, discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk
The National Archives, Research Guides, www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/records/research-guide-listing.htmAn A to Z index of a variety of topics, such as: military records, land records, occupations, births, marriages, deaths, and many more.
British Library online catalog, www.bl.uk.
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