Family history

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

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.

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. 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 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.

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

The Record Office also offers free access to Ancestry, Findmypast and the British Newspaper Archive websites.

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. Note: access at the Record Office and branch libraries is limited to 10 users at a time. At busy times you may need to wait for an online 'seat' to become available (even when using your own device and account via the Wi-Fi network). Our subscription does not include access to the British Newspaper Archive, but you can create a personal account and access the newspapers free of charge while on-site.

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.

Other useful websites

Last updated:
17 June 2024
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