Family history research

Old photograph and pocket watch

Family history research is a very popular leisure activity. Television programmes have led to an increase in people wanting to trace their ancestors and make their family trees.

How to begin

The first step is to speak to your relatives. Put together as much information as you can, such as names, ages, addresses and occupations. You should then try to prepare a preliminary family tree. This should help sort out dates when people were born, married or died. Some families kept records in bibles and others may have certificates or newspaper cuttings.

About civil certificates

To confirm your research you can obtain certified copies of register entries, see: Copy certificates .

A birth certificate will show:

  • the child's name;
  • date and place of birth;
  • the names of both parents, including the mother's maiden surname. (Occasionally, a father's name may not be recorded);
  • current records (from 1969) show the place of birth of both parents.

You can then try to trace the marriage certificate of the parents. This will show:

  • their names;
  • the date and place of marriage;
  • where they lived at the time of their marriage;
  • their ages;
  • their occupations;
  • the names and occupations of both of their fathers.

A death certificate will show:

  • the deceased's full name;
  • the place of death;
  • cause of death;
  • occupation;
  • address at the time of death;
  • name and address of the person registering;
  • current records (from 1969) show the maiden surnames of married women and the place of birth of the deceased.

All this information can be used to work back in time and trace earlier records.

Further research

Census reports give details of people living at a household at the time of the census. The latest published census reports are for 1911 and can be accessed on 1911 Census for England and Wales .

The census records for England and Wales from 1841 to 1911 can also be accessed on:

  • Ancestry: Available at all Calderdale libraries, free of charge;
  • Find My Past: Available at Halifax Central and Todmorden libraries, free of charge.

The Local studies and family history section in the Reference Library (Halifax Central) has many resources, including:

  • access to the Index of Births, Marriages and Deaths;
  • Parish registers;
  • Poll books and Electoral Registers;
  • newspapers;
  • access to Ancestry and Find My Past;
  • trade directories;
  • photographs.

Other sources of information include: parish records, local libraries, newspapers and many websites including:


See also