Family history: Look locally

Once you can place a relative in a geographical location, it is then possible to fill in background information about them via your local council records. Some of these may be online, others may be found in local archives or the family history centre, and can include council minutes, education records and quarter sessions.

family history

[photo: ArtUK]

family history


Quarter sessions in the UK were courts of limited criminal and civil jurisdiction, and appeal, usually held quarterly in counties and boroughs [above]. Discontinued in 1972 to be replaced by the Crown Courts, these are a fruitful place to search if one of your relatives appeared in court. Some records are available online, others may be accessed via your local archives. They are a rich source of information including the names of those present such as justices, bailiffs, High Constable, jury members and defendants. Some records are available online at Ancestry, for example Yorkshire quarter session records for the years 1637-1914.

Council minutes are usually accessible in archive reading rooms, making interesting reading perhaps for information about a specific relative who worked for the council, or for social information about a particular time. If your relative was involved in local politics or Government service, this could be a good resource.

Education records include school registers, available online and in local archives, with a wealth of information from running costs of a school, examples of exams and exam results. Various school lists and yearbooks are available to search online at Ancestry and Find My Past.

Most local archives hold collections of rate books – rates were a local tax calculated on the value of the property, and pre-date the UK’s current council tax. Here you can find names, addresses, property descriptions, and amount to be paid. Some collections are now online at Find My Past.

If you are researching a relative in the Second World War, try the local civil defence records at your local archive or family history centre. If you can’t find the record you are looking for, check for changes to county boundaries and search is neighbouring areas. It’s also worth checking The National Archives via the Discovery catalogue. Civil defence records are not just about wartime ARP wardens but also include pre-war planning, evacuation procedures, recruitment, training and premises. Records go back to 1100.

More and more cemetery registers are going online as local UK councils work with Deceased Online and Find My Past. Photographs of gravestones from some municipal sites are online at Billion Graves and Find a Grave.

Read my report here about Deceased Online.

This post is inspired by an article in the February 2017 issue of ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ magazine. More details here.

If you want to read more about family history research, try these articles:-
Using History Pin
The 1939 Register
Using maps

family history


In the process of researching for Sweet Joy, third in the ‘Rose Haldane: Identity Detective’ series, I have been looking at Twickenham where part of the story is set. A critical part of the action happens during a bombing raid on the town in November 1940 so I tracked down reports by ARP wardens [above] via the Discovery Catalogue at The National Archives, Kew.

family history


‘Ignoring Gravity’ by Sandra Danby [UK: Beulah Press] Buy now


And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Check your local records #familyhistory via @SandraDanby