Getting started

We have a wide variety of resources available to support your family history research, whether you’re just beginning and are looking for a place to start or have been researching your family tree for a while and are looking for something specific.

To build a firm foundation for your research, you need to:

  • talk to family members to find out important information names and dates
  • locate, scan and conserve old family photos to help put faces to names
  • make a rough family tree that you can record information on, even if some details have to be later changed
  • locate, scan and conserve birth, marriage and death certificates.

Next steps

Once you’ve gone through these preliminary steps, it’s time to visit our family history room, where you’ll find a wide selection of reference books to help you take your research to the next level. You can search the library catalogue for popular family history books that you can borrow to read them at home and download our guide to the archives and local history resources we offer.

Remember we also offer free access to Ancestry and Find My Past in all our libraries and access to a number of useful websites. There are printed guides in the family history room to help you navigate Ancestry and Find My Past. If you need more support, though, why not ask a member of staff for details of our workshops where we can talk you through the site. We offer free ‘Getting Started’ sessions for Ancestry and Find My Past, or you can book a free session with one of our Family History Buddies for more tailored support.


Our vibrant family history room has microfilm readers, public network PCs and a range of family history books and magazines. It’s designed for group-working and families, with comfy seats and laptop tables downstairs and larger tables on its mezzanine floor.

We’ve got a wide selection of books to help you as well as a range of family and local history websites, including free access to Ancestry and the British Newspaper Archive via our computers or your own laptop/tablet using our free wifi network.

Our microfilm collection of council records and local newspapers is a popular resource, so we advise booking a microfilm reader in advance by email or by calling 01904 552800.

Please note that you can’t bring food into the family history room, although you can bring a lidded drink.

For more advice and details of our facilities, take a look at our Getting Started guide.

Can I copy material?

We’re happy for you to copy materials as long as you buy a reprographics licence and complete a copyright declaration form beforehand. Our microfilm readers also allow you to copy images to a USB drive, which you can buy at the local history staff desk. For more information, please see our fees and charges page.

Can I get copies of certificates?

We can’t supply you with copies of certificates, but you can purchase birth, marriage and death certificates from 1837 onwards from the General Register Office.

Details of costs and how to apply for certificates are available at the General Register Office certificate ordering service.

The General Register Office website also tells you how to apply for certificates from Scotland, Northern Ireland and overseas.

You can also contact the GRO at:

General Register Office
PO Box 2
Merseyside PR8 2JD

Telephone: 0845 603 7788

For certificates relating to York registered births, marriages and deaths, you can apply directly to York Registry Office.