You can view the guide below as a PDF [Download PDF]
Researching your family history takes time, and may require you to visit record offices around the country. Warwickshire County Record Office holds many records that can be used for family history research, and guidance on using these is provided below.
To start your family history research, collect information from your family members and then work backwards from the earliest event for which you have definite evidence (e.g. a birth certificate). There are a number of online resources you can use (see the Useful Links section below) but you will also need to visit record offices to continue your research. If you can’t visit Warwickshire County Record Office in person click here for details of our enquiry and research service.
Church of England Parish Registers
These are the most important single source of information for anyone tracing the history of their family. They contain entries for baptisms, marriages, and burials back to 1538, although early registers have often been lost, and in many parishes they do not start until after 1600 or even 1700. Even allowing for these losses, the registers give some information about most Warwickshire people in the past, and the record office has most of the registers not in current use for parishes in the historic County, including Coventry, but excluding Birmingham. The only exception to this is Stratford-upon-Avon where the original registers are held by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Record Office. However we do hold microfilm copies of the majority of these. You can view a list of these on the parish registers page.
You can view a map showing the Civil Parishes in Warwickshire in a PDF here – [Download PDF]
Indexes to Parish Registers
To make proper use of this information indexes are essential, and the IGI (International Genealogical Index compiled by the Mormons) will be the starting point for many. The current edition of the Index has nearly 2 million entries for Warwickshire people, and although it is by no means complete and deliberately excludes burials, it does cover a high proportion of baptisms and marriages between the 17th century and the 1870s. The current IGI indexes for the whole of the United Kingdom and Ireland are available on microfiche, and for the whole world on CD-Rom at the Record Office. This information is also available on the Internet at familysearch. An index to Warwickshire burials 1813-1837 is complete, and one for the period up to 1813 is in progress. These are not available at the County Record Office, but are administered by the Birmingham and Midland Society of Genealogy and Heraldry. The County Record Office holds a CR-Rom of the National Burial index, this second edition contains over 13 million burial records.
Bishops’ Transcripts of Parish Registers
Where the registers contain gaps, or are missing altogether, it is worth checking the Bishops’ Transcripts. These are held at Worcestershire Record Office for parishes in the south west of the County and at Staffordshire Record Office for the north and east.
Marriage Bonds and Allegations
Many people chose to marry away from their home parish, especially in the 17th and 18th centuries, and records of these, (where they survive), containing more information than is found in parish registers are at Worcestershire Record Office and Staffordshire Record Office.
Nonconformist and Roman Catholic Registers
Although Nonconformists (Methodists, Baptists, Congregationalists etc.) and Roman Catholics usually had their baptisms, marriages and burials recorded in the Church of England parish registers, they often kept their own registers from the late 18th century onwards. Some of these Nonconformist and some of the older Roman Catholic registers are at the Record Office. For information about Catholic registers and their whereabouts contact the Catholic Archivist at Cathedral House, St Chads, Queensway, Birmingham B4 6EU Tel: (0121) 236 2251. For information about Nonconformist registers see ‘Tracing Nonconformist Ancestry’ by D J Steele. Click here for a list of nonconformist and Roman Catholic church registers held at the record office.
Poor Law Records
An index to the majority of Poor Law documents held by Warwickshire County Record Office is available at Midlands Historical Data. An index of parish Poor Law documents, from 1660 to 1835, containing over 80,000 names, is administered by the Birmingham and Midland Society for Genealogy and Heraldry.
You can view a map of the Poor Law Unions in PDF here [Download PDF]
From 1st July 1837 every birth, marriage and death in England and Wales should have been registered with the local Registrar. Name indexes were compiled quarterly, and microfiche copies of these from 1837 to 1983 can be searched at Warwickshire County Record Office. Postal inquiries should be sent to the General Register Office, PO Box 2, Southport, Merseyside PR8 2JD, Tel: 0870 243 7788 (Mon-Sat). Applications from the UK can be made on the General Register Office website. It is also possible to search the indexes to births, marriages and deaths in Warwickshire, and apply for copy certificates online via the Warwickshire Registration Service website.
Information from most of the surviving tombstones in Warwickshire churchyards is available at Warwickshire County Record Office. Most of these are indexed.
By the mid-nineteenth century, churchyards in the towns and cities were becoming very full. As a result, public (or municipal) cemeteries were introduced. Initially these were generally established and run as commercial ventures, but after the passing of legislation in the 1850s and 1860s enforcing the closure of urban churchyards, municipal cemeteries became the rule. Records of some Warwickshire municipal cemeteries have been deposited at the record office, others are held at the cemeteries. The record office’s reference library includes a useful publication ‘Warwickshire Cemetery Records’ , which lists the whereabouts of these records. This publication can be found on the reference shelves.
An index to many of the burials in Warwick Cemetery can be found on the Midlands Historical Data website.
Returns for 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891 and 1901 for the historic County, excluding Birmingham and a small number of fringe parishes, are available at Warwickshire County Record Office. We also hold indexes to the 1851 census for Warwickshire, Devon and Norfolk and to the 1881 census for for the whole country. Censuses from 1851 onwards are particularly useful because they give the age and place of birth of each person. We also hold a small number of earlier censuses for some parishes, which vary in their content. Click here for a list of census returns that are available, arranged in alphabetical order by parish.
Wills made since 1858 are available at the Principal Registry of the Family division, 1st Avenue House, 42-49 High Holborn, London WC1V 6NP, (020) 7947 6000. An index of these wills dating from 1858 to 1943, called the National Probate Index, is available on microfiche at the record office. Before 1858 wills were dealt with by the diocese. Most wills made by Warwickshire people were proved at the Dioceses of Worcester or Lichfield and will be found either at Worcestershire Record Office or Staffordshire Record Office. Published indexes are available up to 1652. The map below shows the diocesan boundary as a dotted line running through the county. The Record Office holds some wills, mostly copies, and also original wills for five small parishes around Temple Balsall. These have been indexed.
You can view a map showing the Civil Parishes in Warwickshire in PDF here [Download PDF]
DNA tests for tracing ancestry
DNA tests are used not only in modern paternity testing but also to confirm or reject family relationships which lie many generations in the past. For example, if you are a male and suspect that someone else with the same surname might be related to you along your male line many generations ago, you can send in a simple saliva sample from you and a sample from your namesake for a Y chromosome test. Or for example, if you are female and suspect that a woman in your maternal ancestry may have come from an exotic country, you can provide a saliva sample for an mtDNA test. For more information, see the Roots for Real website.
Other Useful Records
Hearth Tax returns from 1663 to 1674 (the latter year has been indexed), Land tax Returns from the 1770s to 1832, Electoral Registers from 1832, and Rate Books, (most of these have not been indexed). We also hold Trade Directories for the whole of Warwickshire, Street Directories (limited holdings) and School records.
Some trade directories and street directories for Warwickshire can be viewed on the Midlands Historical Data website.
Sources outside the record office
While we hold a great number of collections and resources which will help you research your Warwickshire ancestors, there are records in other archives and online which you may find useful. [Read more].