Family history

Find out how to get started with researching your family tree.

West Sussex Record Office is the main centre for family history in the county, with expert staff who can advise you. Our libraries are other vital centres which hold resources to help you. 

Here are a few tips to help you get started:

1. Find any records at home

Search for any information in a family bible, birth, marriage and death certificates, wills, photographs, cuttings, diaries, letters and so on. Interview any elderly relatives and family friends. Build up as much of a picture as possible, but don't take the information as gospel unless you can check it.

2. 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.

3. Keep notes

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. Also, record unsuccessful searches as well as successful ones including the names you searched for and the sources used.

4. Come and see us!

Research your family tree at the West Sussex Record Office

We have a huge range of sources, much of it on microfilm, microfiche and public access computers – including free access to the Ancestry and findmypast websites.

Find out about visiting the Record Office and all the sources of information available.

If you would like professional assistance for a fee, then see our Research Service page for details.

Research your family tree in West Sussex libraries

Our biggest library collection of family history sources is at Worthing Library.

The other large town libraries of Bognor Regis, Burgess Hill, Chichester, Crawley, East Grinstead, Haywards Heath, Horsham, Littlehampton, and Shoreham concentrate on West Sussex sources and their own catchment area.

Library members can use the Ancestry Library and FindMyPast websites free of charge on all West Sussex library computers (access to FindMyPast is limited to 10 users at any one time).

You can access other useful family history websites through our eInformation online reference library, either at home or in libraries.

Find out more

Visit the Record Office library to view 'Mini-guide 6: Family history in West Sussex'.

Additional information

Last updated:
27 October 2017

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