England Major Websites

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Government • Public Sector

A central location for a consortium of governmental and public sector body sites. In addition, it has numerous guides, appropriate and frequently required subject links, and additional links to an abundance of official and unofficial sites leading to a wealth of information. Following are the sites of the consortium:

  • www.gro.gov.uk
    The General Register Office for England and Wales, providing in-depth information for the registering of births, marriages and deaths, as well as details and facilities for the ordering of the certificates of such, including more specific issues such as stillbirths and adoptions. Also links referring to current day marriage-related or registration issues, and a few additional research links.
  • www.nationalarchives.gov.uk
    The joined forces of the Public Record Office and the Historical Manuscripts Commission, containing wealth of information, help resources, and links to additional sites, including archives and directories.
  • www.familyrecords.gov.uk/frc
    Run jointly by the General Register Office and the National Archives, it houses useful information, research helps and links to a number of major sites.
  • www.gro-scotland.gov.uk
    The General Register Office for Scotland, responsible for the registration of births, marriages, deaths, divorces and adoptions, and for carrying out periodic censuses. In-depth detail of available records, including aforementioned, Old Parochial Records, Old Parish Records, as well as links to related sites—in some cases, more in-depth. Also very informative.
  • www.nas.gov.uk
    The National Archives of Scotland is the main archive for sources of the history of Scotland as a separate kingdom, its role in the British Isles and the links between Scotland and many other countries over the centuries. The NAS holds records spanning the 12th to the 21st centuries.
  • www.scan.org.uk
    The Scottish Archive Network houses a catalogue to 52 archives; a number of digital archives; an extensive list of Scottish-related external websites, as well as those hosted by SCAN, including Scottish Documents and Scottish Handwriting; and a variety of information, guides and research tools.
  • www.proni.gov.uk
    The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, providing wealth of information regarding records housed, numerous external links, and houses sites for Freeholders’ Records, The Ulster Covenant, and Will Calendars.
  • www.llgc.org.uk
    The National Library of Wales contains innumerable references, links and information relating to the sources it contains, as well as numerous external links to sites containing information housed at the NLW.
  • www.bl.uk
    Although the partner emphasis seems to be with the India Office Records, which alone is unlimited in information relating to its archives, as well as the references, sources, and links provided, it’s just one geographic category of the British Library, which is an infinite network of catalogues and collections in its own right.
  • www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/a2a
    The English strand of the UK Archives Network, Access to Archives is a database containing catalogues describing archives held throughout England and Wales and dating from the 900s to the present day. It contains 10.1 million catalogue entries from 414 record offices and other repositories.
  • www.cwgc.org
    The Debt of Honour Register on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission makes it possible to enter criteria to search a database listing 1.7 million men and women of the Commonwealth forces who died during the two world wars and 23,000 cemeteries, memorials and other locations world-wide where they are commemorated. The register can also be searched for details of 67,000 Commonwealth civilians who died as a result of enemy action in the Second World War. The site is also informative in relation to all that is Commission-related, and includes a lot of related links.
  • www.iwm.org.uk
    The Imperial War Museum provides detailed information of events and rolls it plays via links to each of its branches; and although not to be overlooked, draw attention primarily to the Family History link, which itself has a number of links (including an abundance of subject-divided external links), and some downloadable subject-specific research guides in PDF format.

The 1901 Census for England and Wales has a number of search options, meaning that a search of the data is not limited primarily to a name search. Summaries of search results are shown, but more in-depth information requires a minimum charge. If desired, images of the original documents are available for download, and transcription details of family/household members have been linked. There is also a large collection of links to external sites.

ScotlandsPeople is the official online source of parish register, civil registration and census records for Scotland, containing nearly 50 million records. From the results of an index search you may view, save and print images of many of the original documents, and order extracts of any register entries. In summary, it contains 1841-1901 Censuses; Old Parish Register: Births/Christenings, Marriages/Banns (1553-1854); Statutory Register: Births (1855-1906), Marriages (1855-1931), Deaths (1855-1956); Wills & Testaments (1513-1913). Whilst registration is required to fully access the database, there is still a multitude of information available.

The General Register Office for Northern Ireland is very informative with regard to its services and records, both of which are described in great depth. Online applications can be made for birth, marriage, death and adoption certificates; and it also has a useful list of external sites.

The General Register Office for the Republic of Ireland offers in-depth detail into the records and services it provides (including present-day registrations and modern-day issues), as well as a detailed history of the origin of such. Online applications possible and a number of useful links too.

A large site, The National Archives of Ireland (Republic) provides a comprehensive description and historical background of its numerous records, along with additional sources. It provides in-depth detail of its responsibilities and services, and rules/arrangements for booking/visiting in order to view. An online service is available, making it possible to reserve documents for viewing in person. As well as the array of archives described in great detail throughout the site—a summary of which can also be viewed—there is a portion that can be searched and viewed online. Also a lot of guides and a countless amount of very useful external sites, the majority indexed alphabetically and a portion of which are categorised.

The National Library of Ireland claims to house the world's largest collection of Irish documentary material, including books, manuscripts, newspapers, periodicals, drawings, photographs and maps. The majority of material needs to be viewed in-house, although there are still a number of online catalogues and databases available. Each category of the library’s collections gives in-depth detail of the material and applicable services available, as does the Office of the Chief Herald, and the National Photographic Archive. Numerous categorised external links are available, as are downloadable user guides.


Originally consisting primarily of records of the civil registration BMD indexes for England and Wales from 1837 to 2006, viewable as images of microfiche. Since added: records of BMD of British citizens overseas or at sea, ranging from 1761 to 2005; census records for 1841-1901, searchable by name or address (excluding 1881 address search); various migration indexes covering 1793-1960; various military-related records covering 1656-1994, including army births and deaths not included on civil indexes. There is also the ongoing Parish Records Collection project, collating baptisms, marriages, burials and related records across England and Wales, covering 1538-2005. If your ancestor was in the right circles, then a list of directories and occupations, covering 1858-1925, may also be of use. Also included is a blog, options to search for living relatives, and with Family Tree Explorer, up to 2 family trees can be created or uploaded by GEDCOM to the site, with numerous features and options available. Help for the various resources, as well as an in-depth knowledge base for a variety of external record-types and subjects also included.

The largest collection of family history records on the web, Ancestry.com contains over 4 billion names—in many cases, with the option of images of original documents available. Although primarily US-based, amongst over 3,000 databases (some of which can be viewed for free) is a collection of UK & Ireland Records, consisting of over 200 million names alone. Free facilities are available (some requiring registration), including countless subjects and content in the Learning Center; the submission-based Ancestry World Tree, a nearly 400 million-strong pedigree database; the option to create an online family tree; and thousands of message boards. After registering, My Ancestry makes it possible to create search lists, the criteria of which are automatically compared against all databases, and for any possible matches made, notification is made by e-mail. There is also an extensive blog, with links to social networking, RSS feeds, and an e-mail update.

Localised for UK and Irish customers, Ancestry.co.uk focuses on such collections, making its records more notably accessible, including those UK-related which are available for free. Also, subscription options are priced in pound sterling, rather than American dollars. Still networked with Ancestry.com—hence it still being possible to subscribe to the Worldwide Membership—worldwide facilities such as the Ancestry World Tree and message boards are also accessible, but often with a UK slant, such as attention drawn to the 400 million-strong Ancestry World Tree including 25 million UK & Ireland names. Although features can still be accessed from the US site, certain UK equivalents—such as the Learning Centre—take on a life of their own; whereas others, such as the DNA Project, are dependant upon the US site, still awaiting a UK page.