BIFHS-USA | Guide to British Isles Research

BIFHS–USA  |  Guide to British Isles Research

III. England and Wales

See also:  English Study Group  |  Welsh Study Group   

The British Isles Family History Society - U.S.A. maintains a large research collection at the Los Angeles Regional Family History Center. This section is a guide to the England and Wales portion of that collection; however, many of the materials listed are available from the Family History Library through Family History Centers worldwide.

The resources listed in this "England and Wales" section are to be used in addition to the resources in the "General British Isles" section.

The following items are only a select list of materials. These items are in the process of annotation.

A. How to Do Research in England and Wales

Gardner, David E. and Frank Smith. Genealogical Research in England and Wales. (3 vols.) These three volumes are excellent. Volume three contains examples of old handwriting. Book 942 D27gs.

Irvine, Sherry. Your English Ancestry: A Guide for North Americans is designed to help Americans get their English ancestry back to the mid-eighteenth century. All of the resources discussed are available through major libraries and the FHC. The book contains lists of suggested research procedures. Book 973 D2is.

Milner, Paul and Linda Jonas. A Genealogist's Guide to Discovering Your English Ancestors: How to Find and Record Your Unique Heritage. This book is a step-by-step guide to locating your ancestors in the most important records for English Research.

Research Outline: England. Compiled by the Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If you acquire only one guide to English research, this should be it. This inexpensive guide is available in the sales area of the Los Angeles Regional Family History Center and also through other Family History Centers worldwide. 

Research Outline: Wales. Compiled by the Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If you acquire only one guide to Welsh research, this should be it. This inexpensive guide is available in the sales area of the Los Angeles Regional Family History Center and also through other Family History Centers worldwide.

Rogers, Colin. The Family Tree Detective: A Manual for Analysing and Solving Genealogical Problems in England and Wales, 1538 to the Present Day. This is the best book for getting practical ideas when a problem occurs in searching for a birth/baptism, marriage, death/burial record. It covers civil registration and parish registers back to 1538. Book 942 D27r 1985.

Rowlands, John, et. al., eds. Welsh Family History: A Guide to Research is book number 942.9 D27w.

Wagner, Anthony R. English Genealogy discusses the study, records, and literature of English genealogy. It covers the social and historical background of groups who came to England and of those who left England to settle elsewhere. Book 929.142 W125e

B. Finding Aids

Smith's Inventory of Genealogical Sources is probably the single most valuable finding aid to British Isles sources held in the Family History Library collection. Smith's Inventory of Genealogical Sources was compiled by Frank Smith and a team of researchers who indexed items in periodicals, books, and microfilms which are not specifically listed in the Family History Library Catalog. Nancy Bier included a description of Smith's Inventory in the 1996 BIFHS-USA Genealogical Research Seminar Syllabus, pages 9-14. There are inventories for England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. All serious researchers must use both the FHLC and Smith's Inventories.

England Fiche #6110526

Wales Fiche #6110529

C. General Reference

Evans, H. Meurig and W.O. Thomas, Welsh-English, English-Welsh Dictionary is book number 491.663 Ev15

Davies, Dewi. Welsh Place-Names and Their Meanings. Book number 942.9 E2d.

D. Finding Places: Maps and Gazetteers

Bartholomew's Half-Inch Map Series [England, Scotland, and Wales] was originally on 63 large pages. They have been bound into a large black binder in the map area, book number 912.42 B282-1.

Davies, Elwyn. A Gazetteer of Welsh Place Names is on microfiche #6054477. 

Gardner, David E., Derek Harland, and Frank Smith. A Genealogical Atlas of England and Wales is a reprint of 1840s Samuel Lewis maps. Book 942 E3g.

Hill, Ellen and Del Ora Guymon Cook. A Gazetteer of Wales (5 vols.) This gazetteer contains all places that are listed in Bartholomew's Gazetteer, Burke's Key to the Ancient Parishes of England and Wales, Crockford's Clerical Directory, Lewis's Topographical Dictionary, and The Parish Register Abstract. It is on microfilm #823,795.

Humphrey-Smith, Cecil, ed. The Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers is probably the single-most important reference work. The Atlas contains topographical maps alongside parish maps for each of the counties of England and Wales. The parish maps show the probate jurisdictions and date of commencement of the parish registers. The Index is a separate section that shows the location and dates of coverage of parish registers and of various indexes. This book is kept in a locked bookcase behind the Information Desk in the Los Angeles Regional Family History Center.

Lewis, Samuel. A Topographical Dictionary of England (4 vols.) is an excellent gazetteer that gives locations and descriptions of English places. Published in 1831, book number 914.2 L588. This Gazetteer is also available on microfilm #413,519 - 413,522 for other Family History Centers.

Lewis, Samuel. A Topographical Dictionary of Wales (2 vols.) is book number 914.29 L588-2.

Lewis, Samuel. Atlas to the Topographical Dictionaries of England and Wales. Book 942 E5L.

Ordnance Survey Drawings 1790-1840 for England and Wales are very detailed maps drawn at two and three inches to the mile. They are on 425 microfiche, #6066967. 

Richards, Melville. Welsh Administrative and Territorial Units: Medieval and Modern is the most comprehensive gazetteer for Wales. It contains medieval to modern jurisdictions and gives both English and Welsh versions of place names. All Welsh places are cataloged in the Family History Catalog by the names used in this gazetteer. This gazetteer is on fiche #6026396.

Smith, Frank. A Genealogical Gazetteer of England is a shortened version of Lewis's Gazetteer that adds the date of commencement of registers for each parish and the name of the parish for all other entries. Book 914.2 S56.

Wilson, John Marius, ed. The Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (6 vols.) is one of the best gazetteers. All English places in the Family History Library Catalog are catalogued according to the Imperial Gazetteer. It is on microfiche #6020308 to #6020327.

E. Biographies and Family Histories

Dictionary of National Biography (63 vols.) is on fiche #6051261 (278 fiche).

Dictionary of Welsh Biography down to 1940 is book number 942.9 C992.

F. Civil Registration

Civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths began in England and Wales on 1 July 1837. The records are indexed nationwide. The LA FHC has these indexes available on microfilm and microfiche.

Please note that the place listed in the civil registration index is the name of the registration district, not the name of the parish. Before you go to the Family History Center, you can find the name of the registration district for your ancestor's parish by looking up the parish in the Index of Places in England and Wales. There is also an online List of Registration District Numbers. If all you know is the county where your ancestor was born and you want to know the names of the registration districts for that county, you can find them in Registration Districts of England and Wales 1837-1930. To find the name of the registration district in the Family History Center, look up the name of the parish in the Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales on fiche #6020308 to #6020327. You can find registration district maps in the following sources:

A Guide to the Arrangement of the Registration Districts Listed in the Indexes to the Civil Registration of England and Wales contains nineteenth-century maps. It is on fiche #6020287.

Maps showing superintendent registrar's districts for 1870, film #1,342,387.

The civil registration indexes are arranged by event in chronological order by quarter year. The names registered in each quarter are listed alphabetically. For instance, if your ancestor was born April 30, 1883, you would first look for his name in the birth index for the June Quarter, 1883. However, this is not the date that your ancestor was born, married, or died, but the date that the event was registered. You need to check the quarter year when the event occurred and if your ancestor's name is not found, search subsequent quarters.

The microfiche indexes are faster to use than the ones on microfilm, but some of the fiche indexes were poorly filmed, so you may need to double-check the microfilm version. The LA FHC microfilm collection covers 1837 to 1903/1905. [See Computer No. 0111281.] The microfiche indexes cover 1837 through the end of 1983 on 21,537 fiche. [See Computer No. 0754397.] The microfiche numbers are listed below:

Civil Registration Indexes for England and Wales

Birth Indexes 1837 - 1983 #6101914 - #6102499
Marriage Indexes 1837 - 1983 #6102500 - #6103085
Death Indexes 1837 - 1983 #6103086 - #6103671

Only the indexes are presently available through the Salt Lake Family History Library because the General Register Office has not offered the microfilms of certificates for sale. Once you have the entry from the index, you can order a copy of the certificate from England.

G. Census Records

Census records began in England, Wales, and Scotland in 1801 under an Act of Parliament specifying the format that was to be used. From 1801 to 1831 names were not required to be recorded, but some enumerators did record names in order to count the numbers of the males and females that were to be tabulated. Starting in 1841 the names of all the inhabitants of each household were enumerated.

The 1841 census gives the exact age for children under age 15 and approximate ages rounded down to the nearest 5 for all others. It also gives sex, occupation, and whether born in the county where enumerated (Y for yes, N for no) or in another country (I for Ireland, S for Scotland, F for foreign parts).

In 1851 (and onward) the exact ages were given (as reported to the census taker), the relationship to the head of the household, and marital status. The exact place of birth (parish or town and county) was provided for those who were not foreign born.

Indexed census images for England and Wales are available on commercial websites such as and the National Archives. You can also use microfiche #6024509 to search by place to find the microfilm and microfiche numbers for each census. Next to each place name you will see the microfilm/fiche number[s] listed by census year.

The register of towns indexed by streets for England and Wales is on microfiche #6026692.

Census Street Indexes for England and Wales

1841 #6026393
1851 #6026371
1861 #6026702
1871 #6054442 - #6054457
1881 #6026715
1891 #6036581 - #6036604

Census Records of England and Wales at the LARFHC

1841 Complete set on microfilm 0384671
1851 Complete set on microfilm 0309269
1861 Complete set on microfilm 0056175
1871 Partial set for England, Complete for Wales 0351885
1881 Partial set for England, Complete for Wales

Complete index/transcript on microfiche

1891 Complete set on microfiche 0645097

* N.B.: "Computer Number" is not the same as "Film Number."  The ability to search by computer number is currently not available on the online version of the Family History Library Catalog.

H. Church Records

The Los Angeles Regional Family History Center has many microfilmed copies of original parish registers and bishop's transcripts. There are too many to list individually. Check the Family History Library Catalog under [COUNTRY], [COUNTY], [PARISH] -- CHURCH RECORDS to see what is available from the Family History Library.

Bishop's Transcripts (BT's) of Parish Registers for St. David's Diocese, Wales - The LA FHC has all of the BT's for this diocese on films #105,125 - #105,218.

Church Record Indexes and Finding Aids

Boyd's Marriage Indexes contain over seven million marriage entries. They were compiled by Percival Boyd from printed and transcribed parish registers, Bishop's Transcripts, marriage licenses, and other miscellaneous sources. They are arranged in three series. The 1st series is arranged by county. The 2nd and 3rd series have been combined on these films and are alphabetized by Grooms and Brides rather than by county. It is important to read the introduction on film #472,000 before using Boyd's marriage indexes. The indexes are on films #472,000 - #472,173.

Foster, Joseph, ed. London Marriage Licences 1521-1869 is alphabetically arranged by surname. Entries include the names, ages, and parish of the bride and groom; the date and location of the marriage license or allegation; and other relevant information. It is book number 942.1 F814.

Isle of Wight Consolidated Parish Register Index 1539-1858. The entire set of 75 rolls of film is in the LA FHC. Films #1,279,991 - #1,279,015; #1,278,501 - #1,278,529; #1,279,017 - #1,279,046

Parish Registers of Wales and Non-Conformist Registers of Wales are a two-volume set that will help you determine what records exist. Book number 942.9 V26ste.

I. Probate Records

1858 to 1901 Probate Calendar: In 1858 District Probate Registries were established in England, Wales, and Ireland. Copies of wills and administrations in English and Welsh courts are kept at the Principal Registry of the Family Division (formerly Principal Probate Registry). They are calendared in Calendar of the grants of probate and letters of administration made in the Principal Registry: and in the several district registries of Her Majesty's Court of Probate. People who died from 1858 onward anywhere in England or Wales are included in this calendar if they left an estate of a minimum size, but there are references to Ireland and Scotland as well. There are 548 rolls in this collection covering the period from 1858 to 1957. The LA FHC has these films complete from 1858 through 1901.

The yearly abstracts for those leaving wills are arranged by calendar year, then in alphabetical order by surname of the deceased. There is no handwriting to worry about; all the entries are printed. The abstracts show the value of the estate, the date and place of death, the occupation and residence of the deceased, the names of all executors, and additional information that is helpful identifying the deceased. Please note that from 1858 to 1870 the wills and administrations are calendared separately; from 1871 they are calendared together. Microfilm numbers for the records are as follows:

Probate Calendar

1858-1864 #215,221 - #215,266
1864-1901 #251,172 - #251,383

See Computer No. 0355053 for the entire listing of films and the alphabetical coverage that is included on each roll of film.

Death Duty Registers: While there is no national probate index prior to 1858, the Death Duty Registers and Bank of England Will Extracts [below] can serve as partial substitutes. After a will or administration was proved in probate court, the amount of tax payable on the estate was determined. The taxes are recorded in the Death Duty Registers. These registers are very valuable because they not only tell the court where an estate was probated, they can also provide significant genealogical information not found in other records. The 1995 and 1996 BIFHS-USA Genealogical Research Seminar Syllabuses include discussions of the Death Duty Registers as well as the Bank of England Will Extracts. The Death Duty Registers cover the years 1795-1903. The indexes are on 89 rolls of film in the LA FHC. See Computer No. 0057585.

Bank of England Will Extracts cover the years 1726 to 1845. See Computer No. 0523849. There are contemporary indexes to the Bank of England will extracts in many of the volumes, but the index prepared by the Society of Genealogists (SoG) is much easier to use. The SoG index covers the years 1807 to 1845 and is on fiche #38,000,071 in the LA FHC.

Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC): Prior to 1858 in England, Wales, and Ireland only the Ecclesiastical Courts (with few exceptions) could grant probate. The Prerogative Court of Canterbury was the highest court of probate jurisdiction. The PCC had jurisdiction over estates within its area and also over estates with property in (1) more than one diocese in the Province of Canterbury, or (2) in more than one Province (Armagh, Canterbury, and York). The PCC also had jurisdiction if the estate involved foreigners (including colonists), if the testator died abroad, if the will was disputed, or if the person was willing to pay the higher fees to have the estate probated in the PCC. The probate records for the PCC for the years 1383 to 1857 are on 2,457 rolls of microfilm. See Computer No. 0273976 for a complete listing. The Los Angeles Regional Family History Center has most of the manuscript indexes to wills and administrations (admons) on films #91,801 to #91,888. The manuscript indexes are compiled by year, then chronologically by first letter of the surname. There are also printed indexes to wills on microfiche:

PCC Indexes to Wills

1383-1558 #6073728 - #6073729
1558-1583 #6073736
1584-1604 #6073743
1605-1619 #6073761 - #6073762
1653-1656 #6073772
1657-1660 #6073779
1671-1675 #6073785
1675-1685 #6073789
1686-1693 #6073795
1694-1700 #6073798

Anthony Camp printed the will indexes in PCC Will Index 1750-1800. (6 vols.) Book Number 942 P22c. These books are much easier to use than the PCC manuscript indexes on microfilm because Camp's index is in strict alphabetical order for the entire 50-year period so you do not have to know the exact year of death. See also Index of Wills & Administrations Now Preserved in Probate Registry at Canterbury 1396-1558 & 1640-1650, book number 942 B4b.

See also Peter Coldham, American Wills and Administrations in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury 1610-1857. Book 942 P27c.

Prerogative Court of York: The Index of Wills for the Prerogative Court of York 1688-1858 is on nine microfilms in the British Film Area, #99,445 - # 99,453. There are also registered copies of wills 1389-1637, original wills 1638-1704, and registered copies 1705-1858. See Computer No. 0291333.

Other Probate Courts: Before 1858 wills could be proved in either the court of an archdeacon (archdeaconry court), a bishop (commissary or consistory court), or an archbishop (prerogative court). To determine pre-1858 probate courts, the best guides are Pre-1858 English Probate Jurisdictions for each county compiled by the Genealogical Department of the FHL. They are in two volumes in the Reference Section, Book number R929.3 6286 EN. There is also Hand list of English probate jurisdictions, of filmed and printed probate records on fiche #6026312 (90 fiche).

For Wales, see Pre-1858 Welsh Probate Jurisdictions, Book number R929.3 6286 EN Vol. 2, also on fiche #6054481. On the same fiche is Hand list of Probate Records Pertaining to the Diocese of St. David's, St. Asaph, Bangor, and Llandaff, Wales and of the Peculiar and Exempt Court of Hawarden, Flint County which lists pre-1858 Welsh probate records available through the Family History Library, including film numbers.

There is an extensive collection of Abstracts and Indexes of Welsh Wills on microfiche. The abstracts are arranged by the four dioceses and then by year, but there are also surname, forename, and place-name indexes. These abstracts contain all names mentioned in the wills. The abstract will also give the film number where the will can be found. The LA FHC has all of these on microfiche.

Abstracts and Indexes of Welsh Wills

Bangor 0434448
Llandaff 0056924
St. Asaph's 0185021
St. David's 0000866

* N.B.: "Computer Number" is not the same as "Film Number."  The ability to search by computer number is currently not available on the online version of the Family History Library Catalog.

For other Welsh wills, see the FHLC under:

Colored Maps of Probate Jurisdictions are also in Cecil Humphrey-Smith, The Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers located in a locked bookcase behind the Information Desk.

J. Land Records

Deed Registries were established for Middlesex and Yorkshire (but not elsewhere in England) in the early eighteenth century. The Index to Middlesex Deeds 1709-1800 is on 12 rolls of film #230,638 - #230,648; #415,362. Land records for Yorkshire have also been microfilmed. North Riding land records are found under Computer No. 0374299. See Computer No. 0550372 for records of East Riding and Computer No. 0500964 for West Riding records.

Land Tax Assessments of England and Wales, while not actually land records, are taxes assessed since 1693 on all land valued over an annual rent of 20 shillings. The proprietor's name, occupier's name, and tax are listed. In 1996, BIFHS-USA purchased the complete Land Tax Assessments for 1798 on 64 reels of film #1,483,001 - #1,483,064.

K. Other Sources

Court Records - Records of the Court of Arches 1660-1913 are available on approx. 15,000 microfiche., #6064501 - #6066445.

Naturalization Records - Denization and naturalization lists 1801-1873 are on film #824,514 Item 2. Indexes to English naturalization certificates are found on the following microfilms 

1509-1603 #824,513 Item 1
1603-1700 #824,513 Item 2
1701-1835 #824,514 Item 1
1835-1900 #824,515 item 2, 3
1901-1910 #824,514 item 3
1915-1924 #824,515 item 1

Index to Gentlemen's Magazine is an index of published notices of births, marriages, deaths, promotions, and appointments on fiche #6026701.

Also see the listings for General British Isles

Go to: Where to Begin | General British Isles | England and Wales | Ireland and Northern Ireland | Scotland | Channel Islands | Isle of Man | What's New?

The BIFHS–USA Guide to British Isles Research has been compiled and annotated by Linda Jonas.
Copyright © 1998-2002 Linda Jonas. All rights reserved.

Last edit: Monday, 10-Sep-2018 15:58:21 MDT