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Family history

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How to … Research your Family History: a few basic steps

Before visiting the record office you should:

  1. Talk to your relatives to establish names and ages of your ancestors and where they lived and worked.

  2. Collect documentary evidence, family heirlooms and memorabilia e.g. family bible, birth or marriage certificates, memorial cards, photographs, etc.

  3. Become familiar with the basic sources for family historians so that you know what is available. There are a number of manuals tackling genealogy and how to construct your family tree – just ask at your local library!

  4. Prepare a basic pedigree chart with what you have found out.

  5. Contact your local record office to find out details of opening hours, sources held and booking procedures. Many offices have a closed day each week or require bookings to be made.

Remember start with the present and work backwards, step by step.

However you approach this task, always ensure that you have kept good notes. It is critically important, from the beginning of your research, that you list the information you have gained and write down the full details of the sources you have used (i.e. for books record the author, title and class number, if there is one; and for manuscripts, note any reference number and title).

Genealogy Research Service

You can search for people buried or cremated in the seven cemeteries that are under the control of Dudley Council. Our website database also holds the transcription records and a variety of information on burials, cremations, cemeteries, graves and plots.

For more information please see the Genealogy Research Service page.

Visiting your record office: Initial steps

Remember to bring your notes with you.

  1. Check to see if anyone else has deposited a family history.

  2. Consult the General Register Office (GRO) indexes to Births, Marriages and Deaths. Certificates can be purchased from the appropriate local Register Office.

  3. Parish Registers may be an alternative source for Marriages, Baptisms and Burials although Baptism will not give the mother's maiden name.

  4. Non-conformist Registers give similar information to Parish Registers.

  5. Check the International Genealogical Index (IGI) if your family is difficult to find.

  6. Search the Census enumerator’s returns for addresses given on certificates; these (except 1841) will give the names, ages, occupations and birthplace of named individuals (N.B. Surname indexes available for some areas 1851, 1881).

  7. Check Trade directories if family are not where you expect them to be.

  8. Search Newspapers for obituaries and notices of Births, Marriages & Deaths.

  9. Check Monumental Inscriptions to see if an ancestor was buried with other family members.

Remember to record all the information you find and note its source thoroughly.

In order to place your family in its social background it is essential to search other records, please ask for our leaflet "Sources available for genealogical enquiries". Records were not, however, made with family historians’ research needs in mind, so there may be problems.


  • may be difficult to trace;

  • may not have survived;

  • may not meet your expectations;

  • may not be available for the year you want.

A successful family historian must be:

  • prepared to travel for the sources you require. Local records tend to be held locally.

  • prepared to have to buy certificates of birth, marriage and death (after 1837) from register offices, and to have to pay for any research you are unable to do yourself.

Overall, tracing your family history, and compiling a family tree, is not a simple genealogical line from A to B; rather, it is an involved journey of discovery, revealing the secrets of your heritage, the individuality of your ancestors and who you really are.

Besides, what is ‘history’ without your own story?

My Dudley

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