Guide to
British Isles Research

      Compiled and annotated by Linda Jonas

England and Wales

You don't have to travel to England or Wales to do your family history research.

There are many online indexes and images.  You may want to purchase subscriptions to,, and 1837Online.  This guide describes only a few of the resources available at these sites.

To conduct original research, you will need to use the resources of the Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Family History Library has a massive collection of English and Welsh Records.  You can search the Family History Library Catalog (FHLC) online.  You then go to a Family History Center and order the microfilms/fiche you wish to see.  This guide describes some of the most important holdings of the Family History Library and often gives the FHL film number. If a record series is on several rolls of film the first film number is listed in this guide; search the FHLC by film/fiche number to see the entire series. The Family History Library only lends  materials on microform; it does not lend books, CDs, maps, and other materials. If the record you want is a book, go to a public library and see if you can order it on interlibrary loan.  You can also purchase most of the non-microfilmed materials online from genealogical booksellers.

This guide describes only a sample of the materials available for English and Welsh research.  For detailed instructions, you will want to purchase one of the books in the "How to Do Research in England and Wales" section.

The resources listed in "England and Wales" section are to be used in addition to the resources in the "General British Isles" section.

The following items are only a select list of materials. These items are in the process of annotation:



Gardner, David E. and Frank Smith. Genealogical Research in England and Wales. (3 vols.) These three volumes are excellent. Volume three contains examples of old handwriting. Out of print, but available in many public libraries.

Irvine, Sherry. Your English Ancestry: A Guide for North Americans is designed to help Americans get their English ancestry back to the mid-eighteenth century. All of the resources discussed are available through major libraries and Family History Centers. The book contains lists of suggested research procedures.

Milner, Paul and Linda Jonas. A Genealogist's Guide to Discovering Your English Ancestors: How to Find and Record Your Unique Heritage. This book is a step-by-step guide to locating your ancestors in the most important records for English genealogical research. It tells the order in which to search the records, how to find them, how to interpret them, and  what to do if you can't find your ancestors. It is specifically designed for those who do not live in England.

Research Outline: England. Compiled by the Family History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If you acquire only one guide to English research, this should be it. This guide is available free in electronic format and also for sale in print form through Family History Centers worldwide. 

Research Outline: Wales. Compiled by the Family History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If you acquire only one guide to Welsh research, this should be it. This guide is available free in electronic format and also for sale in print form through Family History Centers worldwide. 

Rogers, Colin. The Family Tree Detective: A Manual for Analysing and Solving Genealogical Problems in England and Wales, 1538 to the Present Day. This is the best book for getting practical ideas when a problem occurs in searching for a birth/baptism, marriage, death/burial record. It covers civil registration and parish registers back to 1538.

Rowlands, John, et. al., eds. Welsh Family History: A Guide to Research.

Wagner, Anthony R. English Genealogy discusses the study, records, and literature of English genealogy. It covers the social and historical background of groups who came to England and of those who left England to settle elsewhere.



Recognizing the various forms of your surname is essential to English research.  For example, the surname Thompson could be recorded in England as Thomasset, Tamblyn, Tomlinson, and many other variations that all mean "son of Thomas."  To find surname variations see

Bardsley, Charles Wareing, A Dictionary of English and Welsh surnames



Smith's Inventory of Genealogical Sources is probably the single most valuable finding aid to British Isles sources held in the Family History Library collection. Smith's Inventory of Genealogical Sources was compiled by Frank Smith and a team of researchers who indexed items in periodicals, books, and microfilms which are not specifically listed in the Family History Library Catalog.  There are inventories for England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. All serious researchers must use both the Family History Library Catalog and Smith's Inventories.

England: FHL Fiche #6110526

Wales: FHL Fiche #6110529



Evans, H. Meurig and W.O. Thomas, Welsh-English, English-Welsh Dictionary/

Davies, Dewi. Welsh Place-Names and Their Meanings.

The Oxford English Dictionary



Davies, Elwyn. A Gazetteer of Welsh Place Names is on FHL microfiche 6054477. 

Gardner, David E., Derek Harland, and Frank Smith. A Genealogical Atlas of England and Wales is a reprint of 1840s Samuel Lewis maps.

Hill, Ellen and Del Ora Guymon Cook. A Gazetteer of Wales (5 vols.) This gazetteer contains all places that are listed in Bartholomew's Gazetteer, Burke's Key to the Ancient Parishes of England and Wales, Crockford's Clerical Directory, Lewis's Topographical Dictionary, and The Parish Register Abstract. It is on FHL microfilm 0823795.

Humphrey-Smith, Cecil, ed. The Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers is probably the single-most important reference work. The Atlas contains topographical maps alongside parish maps for each of the counties of England and Wales. The parish maps show the probate jurisdictions and date of commencement of the parish registers. The Index is a separate section that shows the location and dates of coverage of parish registers and of various indexes.

Lewis, Samuel. A Topographical Dictionary of England (4 vols.) is an excellent gazetteer that gives locations and descriptions of English places. Published in 1831, this gazetteer is also available on FHL microfilm 0413519 - 0413522.  It is also available on compact disc.

Lewis, Samuel. A Topographical Dictionary of Wales (2 vols.).

Lewis, Samuel. Atlas to the Topographical Dictionaries of England and Wales.

Ordnance Survey Drawings 1790-1840 for England and Wales are very detailed maps drawn at two and three inches to the mile. They are on 425 microfiche, #6066967. 

Richards, Melville. Welsh Administrative and Territorial Units: Medieval and Modern is the most comprehensive gazetteer for Wales. It contains medieval to modern jurisdictions and gives both English and Welsh versions of place names. All Welsh places are cataloged in the Family History Catalog by the names used in this gazetteer. This gazetteer is on FHL fiche 6026396.

Smith, Frank. A Genealogical Gazetteer of England is a shortened version of Lewis's Gazetteer that adds the date of commencement of registers for each parish and the name of the parish for all other entries.

Wilson, John Marius, ed. The Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (6 vols.) is one of the best gazetteers. All English places in the Family History Library Catalog are catalogued according to the Imperial Gazetteer. It is on FHL microfiche #6020308 to #6020327.



Dictionary of National Biography (63 vols.) is on FHL fiche #6051261 (278 fiche).

Dictionary of Welsh Biography down to 1940.



Civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths began in England and Wales on 1 July 1837. The records are indexed nationwide. Many of the indexes are available on the Internet. For example, many of the indexes have been transcribed and are searchable at no charge from FreeBMD. The indexes are also part of's UK and Ireland Collection. The complete indexes from 1837 to 2004 are available for a fee at 1837 The series is also available on microfilm and microfiche from the Family History Library.

Please note that the place listed in the civil registration index is the name of the registration district, not the name of the parish. You can find the name of the registration district for your ancestor's parish by looking up the parish in the Index of Places in England and Wales. There is also an online List of Registration District Numbers. If all you know is the county where your ancestor was born and you want to know the names of the registration districts for that county, you can find them in Registration Districts of England and Wales 1837-1930. To find the name of the registration district in a Family History Center, look up the name of the parish in the Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales on FHL fiche 6020308 to 6020327. You can find registration district maps in the following sources:

A Guide to the Arrangement of the Registration Districts Listed in the Indexes to the Civil Registration of England and Wales contains nineteenth-century maps. It is on FHL fiche 6020287.

Maps showing superintendent registrar's districts for 1870, film #1342387.

The civil registration indexes are arranged by event in chronological order by quarter year. The names registered in each quarter are listed alphabetically. For instance, if your ancestor was born April 30, 1883, you would first look for his name in the birth index for the June Quarter, 1883. However, this is not the date that your ancestor was born, married, or died, but the date that the event was registered. You need to check the quarter year when the event occurred and if your ancestor's name is not found, search subsequent quarters.

The microfiche indexes are faster to use than the ones on microfilm, but some of the fiche indexes were poorly filmed, so you may need to double-check the microfilm version.  The microfiche numbers are listed below:

Civil Registration Indexes for England and Wales

Type of Record


Microfiche Numbers

Birth Indexes 1837 - 1983 6101914 - 6102499
Marriage Indexes 1837 - 1983 6102500 - 6103085
Death Indexes 1837 - 1983 6103086 - 6103671


Ordering Birth, Marriage, and Death Certificates

Only the indexes are presently available through the Family History Library because the General Register Office has not offered the microfilms of certificates for sale. Once you have the entry from the index, you can order a copy of the certificate from England. You can order birth, marriage, and death certificates online from the General Register Office.



Census records began in England, Wales, and Scotland in 1801 under an Act of Parliament specifying the format that was to be used. From 1801 to 1831 names were not required to be recorded, but some enumerators did record names in order to count the numbers of the males and females that were to be tabulated. Starting in 1841 the names of all the inhabitants of each household were enumerated.

The 1841 census gives the exact age for children under age 15 and approximate ages rounded down to the nearest 5 for all others. It also gives sex, occupation, and whether born in the county where enumerated (Y for yes, N for no) or in another country (I for Ireland, S for Scotland, F for foreign parts).

In 1851 (and onward) the exact ages were given (as reported to the census taker), the relationship to the head of the household, and marital status. The exact place of birth (parish or town and county) was provided for those who were not foreign born.

The 1841 - 1901 censuses for England and Wales are indexed and available online through, and they are completely indexed. The best news is that you can add a correction if your ancestor's name was recorded wrong. Click on "Comments and Corrections" from the index page. If you do not have a subscription to, you can use it free at most Family History Centers and at many public libraries. The 1861 and 1891 censuses are available online at 1837 The 1841 and 1871 censuses are available online at

If you will be ordering the census on microfilm at any Family History Center, use microfiche #6024509 to find the film and fiche numbers for the census of all places in England and Wales for each census year.

The register of towns indexed by streets for England and Wales is on microfiche #6026692.

Census Street indexes for England and Wales

Census Year

FHL Microfiche Numbers

1841 6026393
1851 6026371
1861 6026702
1871 6054442 - 6054457
1881 6026715
1891 6036581 - 6036604

Census Records of England and Wales

Census Year

The Census: Microfilmed copies from the Family History Library

FHLC First Film/fiche Number*

1841 Complete set on 869 rolls of microfilm 0241190
1851 Complete set on 1377 rolls of microfilm 0087787
1861 Complete set on 753 rolls of microfilm (16mm) 0542554
1871 Complete set on 1829 rolls of microfilm 0824710
1881 Complete set on 1345 rolls of microfilm

Complete index/transcript at

Complete index/transcript on CD. Order at

Complete index/transcript on microfiche

1891 Complete set on 15,091 microfiche 6359765

*  N.B.:  Each of these is a large series of microfilms or microfiche.  Only the first filn/fiche number is given so that you can find the series in the Family History Library Catalog.


Before 1837, church records are your most important resource for finding your English and Welsh ancestors. If you don't know the name of your ancestor's parish, look at "Church Record Indexes and Finding Aids" section below.  Once you know the name of the parish, check  Humphrey-Smith, Cecil, ed. The Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers to find what records exist for your ancestor's parish, when the records started, where the originals are located, and what indexes have been created. The Family History  Library has many microfilmed copies of original parish registers and bishop's transcripts. There are too many to list individually. Search the Family History Library Catalog under [COUNTRY], [COUNTY], [PARISH] -- CHURCH RECORDS to see what is available from the Family History Library. Below is only one example

Bishop's Transcripts (BT's) of Parish Registers for St. David's Diocese, Wales - The Family History Library has microfilmed these Bishop's Transcripts on FHL films 0105125 - 0105218.



International Genealogical Index: The majority of English and Welsh baptisms and marriages are indexed in this massive online index.

Boyd's Marriage Indexes contain over seven million marriage entries. They were compiled by Percival Boyd from printed and transcribed parish registers, Bishop's Transcripts, marriage licenses, and other miscellaneous sources. They are arranged in three series. The 1st series is arranged by county. The 2nd and 3rd series have been combined on these films and are alphabetized by Grooms and Brides rather than by county. It is important to read the introduction on film 0472000 before using Boyd's marriage indexes. The indexes are on FHL films 0472000 - 0472173 and on microfiche.  They are also available online at

Foster, Joseph, ed. London Marriage Licences 1521-1869 is alphabetically arranged by surname. Entries include the names, ages, and parish of the bride and groom; the date and location of the marriage license or allegation; and other relevant information.

Vicar-General Marriage Licence Index 1684-1850 and Faculty Office Marriage Licence Index 1701-1850 are online at

Isle of Wight Consolidated Parish Register Index 1539-1858. On 75 rolls of film available from the Family History Library. FHL Film numbers 1279991 - 1279015; 1278501 - 1278529; 1279017 - 1279046

Parish Registers of Wales and Non-Conformist Registers of Wales are a two-volume set that will help you determine what records exist.



1858 to 1901 Probate Calendar: In 1858 District Probate Registries were established in England, Wales, and Ireland. Copies of wills and administrations in English and Welsh courts are kept at the Principal Registry of the Family Division (formerly Principal Probate Registry). They are calendared in Calendar of the grants of probate and letters of administration made in the Principal Registry: and in the several district registries of Her Majesty's Court of Probate. People who died from 1858 onward anywhere in England or Wales are included in this calendar if they left an estate of a minimum size, but there are references to Ireland and Scotland as well. There are 548 rolls in this collection covering the period from 1858 to 1957.

The yearly abstracts for those leaving wills are arranged by calendar year, then in alphabetical order by surname of the deceased. There is no handwriting to worry about; all the entries are printed. The abstracts show the value of the estate, the date and place of death, the occupation and residence of the deceased, the names of all executors, and additional information that is helpful identifying the deceased. Please note that from 1858 to 1870 the wills and administrations are calendared separately; from 1871 they are calendared together. Microfilm numbers for the records are as follows:

Probate Calendar


Microfilm Numbers

1858-1864 0215221 - 0215266
1864-1901 0251172 - 0251383

Search the Family History Library Catalog for the entire listing of films and the alphabetical coverage that is included on each roll of film. Search by film/fiche number and enter film number 215221.

Death Duty Registers: While there is no national probate index prior to 1858, the Death Duty Registers and Bank of England Will Extracts [below] can serve as partial substitutes. After a will or administration was proved in probate court, the amount of tax payable on the estate was determined. The taxes are recorded in the Death Duty Registers. These registers are very valuable because they not only tell the court where an estate was probated, they can also provide significant genealogical information not found in other records.  The Death Duty Registers cover the years 1795-1903. They are on microfilm through the Family History Library starting with film number 1419473. You can access the death duty registers covering wills and letters of administration in the 'country courts' (i.e. non-PCC) from 1796 to 1811, via The National Archives' DocumentsOnline service.

Bank of England Will Extracts cover the years 1726 to 1845. The 75 rolls of microfilm begin with film number 523849. There are contemporary indexes to the Bank of England will extracts in many of the volumes, but the index prepared by the Society of Genealogists (SoG) is much easier to use. The Bank of England Will Extracts Index, 1717-1845 is searchable online at

Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC): Prior to 1858 in England, Wales, and Ireland only the Ecclesiastical Courts (with few exceptions) could grant probate. The Prerogative Court of Canterbury was the highest court of probate jurisdiction. The PCC had jurisdiction over estates within its area and also over estates with property in (1) more than one diocese in the Province of Canterbury, or (2) in more than one Province (Armagh, Canterbury, and York). The PCC also had jurisdiction if the estate involved foreigners (including colonists), if the testator died abroad, if the will was disputed, or if the person was willing to pay the higher fees to have the estate probated in the PCC. The probate records for the PCC for the years 1383 to 1857 are on 2,457 rolls of microfilm. Search the Family History Library Catalog by film number 91887 for a complete listing. The manuscript indexes to wills and administrations (admons) are on FHL films 0091801 to 0091888. The manuscript indexes are compiled by year, then chronologically by first letter of the surname. There are also printed indexes to wills on microfiche:

PCC Indexes to Wills


Fiche numbers

1383-1558 6073728 - 6073729
1558-1583 6073736
1584-1604 6073743
1605-1619 6073761 - 6073762
1653-1656 6073772
1657-1660 6073779
1671-1675 6073785
1675-1685 6073789
1686-1693 6073795
1694-1700 6073798

The PCC Wills index from 1750-1800 is part of a subscription to Also, Anthony Camp printed the will indexes in PCC Will Index 1750-1800. (6 vols.). These books are much easier to use than the PCC manuscript indexes on microfilm because Camp's index is in strict alphabetical order for the entire 50-year period so you do not have to know the exact year of death. See also Index of Wills & Administrations Now Preserved in Probate Registry at Canterbury 1396-1558 & 1640-1650.

See also Peter Coldham, American Wills and Administrations in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury 1610-1857.

Prerogative Court of York: The Index of Wills for the Prerogative Court of York 1688-1858 is on nine FHL microfilms 0099445 - 0099453. There are also registered copies of wills 1389-1637, original wills 1638-1704, and registered copies 1705-1858. Search the Family History Library Catalog by film number 99445 to see the entire series.

Other Probate Courts: Before 1858 wills could be proved in either the court of an archdeacon (archdeaconry court), a bishop (commissary or consistory court), or an archbishop (prerogative court). To determine pre-1858 probate courts, the best guides are Pre-1858 English Probate Jurisdictions for each county compiled by the Genealogical Department of the FHL.  There is also Hand list of English probate jurisdictions, of filmed and printed probate records on fiche #6026312 (90 fiche).

For Wales, see Pre-1858 Welsh Probate Jurisdictions on FHL fiche 6054481. On the same fiche is Hand list of Probate Records Pertaining to the Diocese of St. David's, St. Asaph, Bangor, and Llandaff, Wales and of the Peculiar and Exempt Court of Hawarden, Flint County which lists pre-1858 Welsh probate records available through the Family History Library, including film numbers.

There is an extensive collection of Abstracts and Indexes of Welsh Wills on microfiche. The abstracts are arranged by the four dioceses and then by year, but there are also surname, forename, and place-name indexes. These abstracts contain all names mentioned in the wills. The abstract will also give the film number where the will can be found.

Abstracts and Indexes of Welsh Wills


First fiche Number *

Bangor 6036685
Llandaff 6020943
St. Asaph's 6026564
St. David's 6020816

*  N.B.: "First Fiche Number" means that there is a series of fiche, of which only the first fiche number is mentioned. Search the Family History Library Catalog by fiche number to see the entire series/

For other Welsh wills, see the Family History Library Catalog under




Colored Maps of Probate Jurisdictions are also in Cecil Humphrey-Smith, The Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers.



Deed Registries were established for Middlesex and Yorkshire (but not elsewhere in England) in the early eighteenth century. The Index to Middlesex Deeds 1709-1800 is on 12 rolls of film; FHL numbers 230638 - 230648; 415362. Land records for Yorkshire have also been microfilmed. The first film number of the North Riding land records is FHL film 554717; East Riding starts with FHL film 1595601, and West Riding records start with FHL film 1471855.

Land Tax Assessments of England and Wales, while not actually land records, are taxes assessed since 1693 on all land valued over an annual rent of 20 shillings. The proprietor's name, occupier's name, and tax are listed.  The complete Land Tax Assessments for 1798 are on 64 reels of film;  FHL numbers 1483001 - 1483064.



Court Records - Records of the Court of Arches 1660-1913 are available on approx. 15,000 microfiche., #6064501 - #6066445.

Naturalization Records - Denization and naturalization lists 1801-1873 are on film #824,514 Item 2. Indexes to English naturalization certificates are found on the following microfilms 


Microfilm Number

1509-1603 #0824513 Item 1
1603-1700 #0824513 Item 2
1701-1835 #0824514 Item 1
1835-1900 #0824515 item 2, 3
1901-1910 #0824514 item 3
1915-1924 #0824515 item 1


Index to Gentlemen's Magazine is an index of published notices of births, marriages, deaths, promotions, and appointments on fiche #6026701.

Where to Begin / General British Isles / England and Wales / Ireland and Northern Ireland / Scotland / Channel Islands / Isle of Man /

Copyright 1998-2006 Linda Jonas. All rights reserved.