Here are some of our favourite websites for family history which you might find useful if you’re just starting out, particularly if you are looking for ancestors in the Liverpool /Lancashire area. Don’t forget that Liverpool was in Lancashire before boundary changes created Merseyside (1974?), so Lancashire records are an important source.
Civil registration refers to the legal registration of birth marriages and deaths (introduced in 1837). Indexes for civil registration are just that – purely indexes so you won’t get addresses or occupations. If you want certificates you normally have to send off and pay for them, but often C of E parishes made the full marriage registration certificate available so you can sometimes find these for free in parish records.
Liverpool / Lancashire Specific Sites
This is an amazing free site with currently 6,509,292 records of baptism, marriages, banns and burials all transcribed by volunteers – the backbone of family history research. New records are being added all the time so it’s worth going back and re-checking on a regular basis. If you are researching another county just do a web search for online parish clerk with that county name, but you will be disappointed. Lancashire’s is by far the best! Parish records only, not civil registration.
Another wonderful free site transcribed by volunteers. St Anthony’s was one of Liverpool’s most well-known city centre Catholic churches. Currently 15,343 baptisms have been transcribed and around 45,000 burials, about half of those are pauper burials. Many of these were Liverpool’s nineteenth century Irish population who had tragically left starvation in Ireland to find disease, poverty and death in Liverpool.
Again a free site that is the work of volunteers. Transcriptions from the indexes of births, marriages and deaths across Lancashire. Civil registration only, no parish records. I find the marriages (over 4 million transcribed so far) particularly useful as it lists both maiden name and former married name for women who are re-marrying.
This free site is a treasure trove. There are transcriptions from the Liverpool Mercury, court reports, births marriages and deaths, all sorts of wonderful snippets. I have found useful info here but it is also a joy to browse.
Transcriptions from Liverpool’s Toxteth Park and Anfield Cemeteries. Like our own site this looks as if it has been put together by enthusiastic family historians. Well worth searching.
A site dedicated to one of Liverpool’s most important and beautiful cemeteries. Historical info about some of the notable people there. It’s not searchable for all burials but the generous person who created this site has put all the records on an excel sheet that you can download and search at your leisure. I have a copy on my computer and found it very useful.
Lots of old photos and memories of the Scotland Rd area of Liverpool
Mostly Liverpool during WW2. A list of all the civilians who died during the May Blitz. Also a list of Liverpool VC winners with short biographies. Other useful bits and pieces for example a section on the Chinese Community..
This is a bit of a quirky one, it’s part of the Ormskirk and District Family History Society website and has around 13,000 records of families who worked on the canal boats. I say families but they were pretty much one massive extended family, all connected and inter-marrying. I have been doing a bit of research for a friend whose family worked as boatmen (and women) and this site has proved invaluable. Although this society covers south-west Lancashire, the boat families were moving up the Leeds – Liverpool canal all the time and many of them eventually settled in Liverpool, so it’s worth taking a look. Good search facility on the site.
Lots of hard-working volunteers with local expertise. £10 per year for UK membership and £15 for overseas. They produce regular journals and have talks and meetings. They have an online catalogue where you can buy sources such as parish records on CD and fiche. Overseas customers have a separate page with different postage rates. The society also has a lively online forum which is a great source of help for family history queries, so would be particularly useful for people researching from a distance. Also a very good facebook group that’s worth joining for regular updates.
Not to be confused with the above. This is general local history rather than family history and has rather more of an academic flavour. An impressive, professionally-produced and well-written journal, a strong focus on buildings and architecture, and again lots of useful talks. If you want more than just names and dates then this will give you background information about the city and its past. We only occasionally get to meetings as we don’t live in the city but its worth subscribing to receive the journals and newsletters. Same rates as above.
This is the Lancashire County Council page for the Lancashire Record Office and their archive. Before local government reorganisation in the 1970s Liverpool was part of Lancashire so they still hold many Liverpool records. its a nice place to visit, a short walk from Preston train station with a tea room to eat your sandwiches. They still have some printed copies of Liverpool trade directories on the shelf which is much more satisfying than looking at them on microfilm (they are only on film in Liverpool Record Office). They have an online service if you can’t get there. Staff are helpful and will put themselves out for you – and they reply to e mails.
This has now been refurbished and it’s worth a trip just to see it. The library building is amazing and is always buzzing with people. Its wonderful to see investment in a library in this age of austerity. If are planning a visit you can prepare by searching the online catalogue in advance but the search facility will only tell you what’s available in the catalogue, it doesn’t give you access to the actual records. I don’t find the catalogue very user-friendly. You can’t tell which items are on microfilm and which are paper records that you need to order up to the search room a few days in advance. Some items that you know they have just don’t appear. I was looking for copies of the Liverpool Porcupine and nothing came up, but of course they do hold copies on microfilm. If you email staff with catalogue queries they do respond quickly and they are helpful and patient when you arrive in person. And don’t forget the Liverpool Family History Society volunteers are there every Tuesday afternoon between 1.30 and 4pm. They work their socks off helping people with their queries and because of this it tends to be the library’s busiest time.
Essentially one person’s family history, but if ever I do a website to portray my family tree I will model it on this. A stylish looking site. Scans of all the sources are on there such as census and baptism records and maps and photos of specific streets and areas where his ancestors lived. It’s a very visual record with snippets of background information about the city to put it into context. Also pages from electoral roles for Princes Walk in 1928 and 1933 (with my grandparents on!)
This is a directory style index for some of the family history information contained in Parliamentary Archives, HL/PO/JO/10/7/266 concerning people known or reputed to be Roman Catholics in the year 1767. All of the information presented here covers Liverpool and its surrounding districts. It is offered here as a free resource for family history researchers to serve as a census substitute. Easy to check and worth a look if you think you may have some long-standing pre-potato famine Liverpool Catholic ancestors.
Info about the history and founding of Liverpool police force and fire service, great photos, notable liverpool crimes, newspaper articles, general historical articles and details of individuals who served. Even if you don’t have ancestors in the police force I would heartily recommend this site for its general historical interest. It’s a fascinating read.
A great little site with lots of interesting info about the parks police and also Liverpool Police force. It seems that the Parks Police records were destroyed in 1972 when the force was disbanded. The records included a treasure trove of photos so the editors of this site have done really well managing to find so much material.
Includes several Gores and Kelly’s directories for Liverpool. Very useful but you need patience as you have to view/ download individual pages rather than a pdf of the whole document. Also includes directories from other areas.
General Family History Sites
These are the Church of the Latter Day Saints (Mormon) Records. The site contains millions of parish records from all around the world and free access to the 1881 UK census. It will show findings from other censuses but the links will take you to subscription sites. This is a free site and you shouldn’t be without it in your favourites links, though I do find it less easy to use since it was updated. Sometimes the search facility doesn’t seem to find people who I know are indexed.
This site belongs to Ancestry.com. the behemoth of family history research. Unlike Ancestry it’s free to sign up. You don’t get access to census records or other useful information but it can be a quick and easy way to find people and to find out if anybody has already done your family tree.
This is a UK subscription site with different levels of access to records depending on how much you pay. It’s a good alternative or supplement to Ancestry.com. You can get all the UK census records here. There are also other useful records such as non-conformist ones. We subscribe to this as well as Ancestry.com because we like the way the addresses come up in the census searches making it easy to recognise your ancestors at a glance from familiar street names. Also the transcriptions are different from Ancestry’s. I have found people on this site that I had been searching for for years on Ancestry.
Another UK subscription site that provides an alternative to Ancestry.com. As well as the subscription it offers pay-as-you-go credits which is useful if you just want to dip your toe in. Some county councils offer it for free on computers in their libraries. They are now offering the 1939 which is a fantastic resource.
One warning about this site. Every now and again they have very tempting offers, for example a month’s subscription for a pound. Take advantage of this but be on your guard. You have to put your credit card details in and unless you opt out they will automatically roll you on and start helping themselves to a monthly fee at full price from your account. As soon as you sign up for one of these offers go into ‘my account’ and under personal details untick the box at the very bottom that says ‘Auto-renew my subscription.’ It then takes you to yet another page to ask if you are sure and you have to tick yet another box. They don’t email you to warn you that they will auto renew you. The British government are meant to be bringing out legislation to stop this type of sneaky rollover subscription. About time. Also, on these special offers they don’t allow you to access the 1939 registers.
It seems to give free access to existing family trees but offers a paid subscription if you want further access to records. It lets you download the software to create a gedcom file but when I tried this out it seemed to have saved my tree to their site without me realising, plus I keep getting annoying software updates even after I thought I had deleted it. It is constantly popping up on my laptop like a virus.
It seems lots of people are complaining about it virtually hijacking your computer and creating family trees that you didn’t mean to create. I found people who had had a similar experience to me on an online forum that now seems to have been mysteriously deleted. My advice is don’t go there.
It’s hard to avoid Ancestry.com if you are serious about family history. I have to admit to spending a disproportionate amount of my life on this site. But who could resist? It has the most extensive collection of online records. Those researching Liverpool ancestors are blessed because Liverpool parish records, both RC and C of E are here and the search facility is wonderful despite all the grumbles on forums about recent changes. This has saved me many trips to the record office so has paid for itself many times over. It is an expensive outlay, but many UK library services subscribe so that library members can access the site free from library computers.
The link above is to the UK site. I joined the ancestry.com site by mistake and found that I was paying over the odds for years for exactly the same subscription I would have got cheaper on the UK site. If you are already a member ring up and try to negotiate a discount before you renew. I hate doing anything like that but they are amenable to it.
The other warning is to think twice before you order your GRO (birth marriage and death) certificates from here. In other words, do not do it! There is a link from the index to order a certificate. Their price is: Standard (up to 16 working days) £22.99: Express (up to 6 working days) £39.99. Instead of clicking the link, copy the GRO reference and go to the official government site. There you will pay only £9.25 for the standard service – a saving of £13.24. The Ancestry express service is a whopping £16.59 more expensive than the same service from the official site.
As above: Order all your UK certificates here or direct from the appropriate local record office. You need to know that the reference numbers from the GRO and the local record office aren’t compatible. They have recently updated their indexes as part of a trial to send out certificates as PDFs instead of by post. This is now a wonderful resource because you can search the birth indexes from 1837 and it shows the mother’s maiden name. On the death index the age at death is listed which helps you pinpoint the right person. I think when the PDF system is fully rolled out it will be wonderful. My only quibble is that the search is a bit of a faff. You have to search separately by gender and you can only search with a margin of two years either side the date. But still well worth it.
Ordering wills may seem a bit mysterious but its much easier than you might think. Until recently the simplest way was to find probate details at your local record office or on Ancestry.com and copy the details on to the form on this website. Alternately the Courts and Tribunal Service would do a general search for you for no extra cost if you didn’t have the relevant information. You then had to print the form out: Application Form for Wills and Probate and post it off with a cheque. Now they have finally joined the 21st century and you can search and order online . It costs £10 per will. I predict that they will be inundated once people realise. Click here to try it out.
If on the record it says ‘Administration,’ it means, as far as I understand it, that a letter of administration was issued, usually to the nearest relative, to dispose of the person’s assets. In that case I don’t think you will get much more information than you already have on the summary. If, however, it says ‘Probate,’ that means there was a will, which is definitely worth sending for as often gives you lots of juicy detail. Don’t assume from the summary that all the money went to the executors of the will. That may not be the case at all. Plus you might find lots of family members that you didn’t know you existed receiving small legacies. The service isn’t usually all that prompt, they aim to respond within 21 working days, but maybe online ordering will speed things up a bit.
If you can ever get here in person you will find yourself in family history heaven. The computers are all set up to access family history sources and the way it’s divided into categories makes searches really productive. I found things here via Ancestry that I hadn’t found on my home computer. Of course the real reason to go is to handle the original records which are quite a thrill. There is an online search facility and its particularly good for military records but frustratingly sometimes it will just give brief details and a reference to a printed source at the archive. Definitely worth a search though, sometimes you do find items you can download quite cheaply – I found an ancestor’s will from 1806. Instant download for £3.30! Regimental war diaries are currently downloadable. If you’re in London on a nice day it’s a lovely trip out, nice facilities and café and you can factor in a visit to Kew Gardens.
An extensive free UK site run by a charitable trust. It gives you lots of useful info such as the location of records. I use it mostly to research where my ancestors lived. It’s great on locations. If you find a baptism in a place you are unfamiliar with and you are not sure if it’s the right one because you don’t know if it’s in the relevant geographical area it will tell you where all the nearby towns and villages are.
Useful for anyone with Irish ancestry, This is a cross-search data base incorporating several sites: Enhanced British parliamentary papers on Ireland: Irish emigration database, and Voices of migration and return.
The search facility is good and you can find individual surnames and people. Its real strength is the documentation available in full on a whole range of issues. For example there is a report on passenger accommodation in steamers between Ireland and Liverpool 1849 containing incredible detail. There are family papers, letters, diaries and journals, newspaper extracts and all sorts of treasures here. And you can download whole documents. Amazing.
Great fun for looking up famous people but lots of ordinary people here. Set the country to one in the UK or you will get lots of American hits if you just put a surname in. The level of adverts is slightly annoying and its not a visually pleasing site, but worth it if you find someone you’re looking for.
Just stumbled across this site which is an attempt to photograph and document all legible gravestones – pretty much worldwide. Ambitious project run by one person with contributions from volunteers. This guy has devoted time and effort and dedication – and it’s free. What a hero! So far 781,00 people in 29 countries so a long way to go. But its a growing resource and you might get lucky. I did.
Don’t forget to bookmark this page to give you easy access to all these useful sites.