1 Getting started
Finding out about family history (genealogy) has become a popular pastime for many people. If you are trying to trace ancestors who lived in the UK we have numerous resources that can help. Use the tips below to get you started.
Find clues at home
Search for any information in a family bible, birth, marriage and death certificates, wills, photographs, cuttings, diaries, letters and so on. Talk to family members and friends. Build up as much of a picture as possible, but don't take the information as gospel until you can check it.
Draw up a family tree
It may not go back very far but it will help you organise your research. Make sure everyone on your family tree is linked; don't be tempted by information or names that don't quite fit, unless they can be verified.
Always keep notes of your research, including the source of your information - you may have to check them in the future and might have difficulty in remembering the source. Record unsuccessful searches as well as successful ones, including the names you searched for and the sources used.
2 Sources of information within West Sussex
Library Service resources
The Library Service family history resources page provides a wealth of information including:
- recommended reads for family historians
- how to access 'Who do you think you are?' and 'BBC history' magazines for free
- details of family history events and the Family History Club
- links to electronic resources (Ancestry, Findmypast and the British Newspaper Archive).
Record Office resources
The Record Office in Chichester also holds a huge range of sources, much of it on microfilm, microfiche and public access computers.
The Record Office also offers free access to Ancestry, Findmypast and the British Newspaper Archive websites.
Visit the Record Office library to view our 'Mini-guide 6: Family history in West Sussex'.
3 Free access to UK and worldwide resources
The websites listed on this page can all help in the search for your family history. Some of them are free to access from home if you are a library member, some are available free via our library and Record Office computers.
Access via our library and Record Office computers
The following websites can be accessed for free from our library and Record Office computers.
- Ancestry - Search your family history using a selection of UK censuses, parish records and other national and international databases.
- British Newspaper Archive - Regional historical newspapers from the British Library collection. You will first need to register with the British Newspaper Archive. When you next log in, you will be able to access the archive and a personal 'My Research' area.
- Find My Past - Trace your ancestry and build a family tree by researching extensive UK birth records, census data, obituaries and more. Please note that our subscription does not include access to the British Newspaper Archive.
Access from your digital device
These websites are free to access from your own computer, smartphone or tablet if you are a library member - you will need your library card number. If you are not a member you can join online.
- Dictionary of National Biography - Information on over 60,000 people from around the world who have helped to shape Britain's past.
- Illustrated London News - The world's first illustrated weekly newspaper published from 1842.
- Times Digital Archive - Contains every issue of The Times published between 1785 and 2012.
- Who’s Who and Who Was Who - Directory of the noteworthy and influential, both in the UK and worldwide.
Other useful websites
4 Get help with your search
If you would like professional assistance, for a fee, visit our research service page for details.