Visiting a Records Office for Family History

Interested in researching your family tree, some members share sites and experiences.
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Joined: Mon Jan 07, 2008 7:43 pm
Location: Sussex

Visiting a Records Office for Family History

Post by LizG » Thu Aug 30, 2012 7:26 pm

You need to take a utility bill to prove your address and something with your sig on, like a driving licence. They will then issue you with a Readers Ticket which you need to access documents. You will probably also need to book a seat, computer or film readers, whichever you will need to use. At Lewes the table seats where you can have the archived registers are usually booked several days in advance but usually the computers and readers have spare space. You also can only take in a notebook, pencils, rubber and a pencil sharpener in a clear bag (a bit like exam time back to school). Any others files or handbags have to be stored in lockable lockers outside the readers room. Lewes does allow you take in a laptop. You might need to check with the Records Offices you are going to as to what they do and don't allow.

Lewes (East Sussex Records Office) has an index of what parish (church) registers are appropriate for the area and identify whether these are on film, transcribed into a books on the shelf or have to be got from the strong room. They obviously prefer you to use film or transcripts where possible and they just leave you alone to help yourself and research. Some of the transcript books contain a listing of what is found in the registers, some are photocopies and some even contain name indexes. Films of the registers are just that but personally I get neck ache trying to view them, even worse when the vicar's handwriting is bad!! To get the original register from the strong room you have to fill in a docket with your details and the reference number of the register (found in the index I first talked about in the paragraph). It gets sent down to the strong room and you have to wait for it to come up; it can sometimes take half an hour so have something else ready that you want to look up in a transcript or film. Also you may well find that there is a 1 to 1.5 hour break at lunchtime when you cannot get registers up from the strongroom so be canny and order before the lunchbreak so that they come up before it shuts. Lewes cannot store all its records on site and if you are unlucky you may have to order it and wait a couple of weeks for it to arrive at the records office; I haven't had any problems with parish registers, it seems to be other records stored off site.

Record offices have more than parish registers that might be useful for family history research; school records, workhouse records, directories etc. They have maps and documents to help people research their house; records from different organisations; old vehicle registrations etc etc.

If you want to do your homework beforehand then go to the National archives website (just google A2A) and then in the search make sure you choose the advanced search and select the records office you are going to and then put in what you are searching for.

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