First steps in researching your family history

We have the unique resources you need to investigate. But how do you start?

Start by finding out as much information as you can about your family from living relatives and by looking at certificates, photographs and so on in their possession.

Oxfordshire History Centre

The Oxfordshire History Centre is a treasure house of resources for the local and family historian, gathering together material on families from across the county.

It includes the archives of Oxfordshire and its people stretching back 850 years and a variety of printed and electronic sources.

Where to find help and information

  • Try some of these books for advice:
    • Easy family history by David Annal (2012)
    • Tracing your family history on the internet by Chris Paton (2014)
    • Who do you think you are genealogy handbook by Dan Waddell (2014)
  • Oxfordshire History Centre holds a range of published materials from  Oxfordshire family histories and biographies to general dictionaries such as Burke's Peerage and Landed Gentry.
  • Monthly family history magazines will give you the latest news on research and records.
  • Oxfordshire Family History Society operates a volunteer family history help desk from the history centre, where you can spend time discussing your research problems.

Digitised Oxfordshire family history data

Oxfordshire Family History Society has spent many years transcribing, indexing and digitising Oxfordshire records. All the resulting data is available on public computers at the history centre. If your target is an Oxfordshire one, this may be the best place to start.

  • Search Suite – countywide indexes of baptisms, marriages burials, etc
  • Census returns for Oxfordshire, 1841-1911 (images, transcripts (1841-51) and indexes)
  • Parish register transcripts
  • Digitised images of Oxfordshire parish registers
  • Oxford city cemetery grave registers transcripts
  • Monumental inscription transcripts
  • District Valuation maps and books.

Many of the photographs housed within Oxfordshire History Centre’s collections can be searched and viewed through Picture Oxon.

The Oxfordshire wills for 1516-1857 have been digitised and are available through Findmypast.  Searchers can access this website free in the Searchroom.

The Oxfordshire parish registers have been digitised and are available through Searchers can access this website free in the Searchroom.

District Valuation maps and books have also been digitised and can be viewed at district valuation maps and books.

Digitised trade directories and tithe records, as well as other family history resources, are available at Searchers can access this website free from the searchroom

Original documents

They include:

  • parish registers – baptisms, marriages and burials from 1538 to the 21st century. There are typed, indexed transcripts in the History Centre searchroom
  • Quarter Sessions – records of the Oxfordshire court which dealt with a variety of criminal cases and administrative matters, 1687-1974. All references to individuals are indexed up to 1830 in the searchroom, and most of the period 1830-1850 can be found on our online catalogue Heritage Search
  • electoral registers from 1832 to the 21st century.

A readers’ ticket is required to consult original documents.

Oxfordshire History Centre enquiry service

The history centre runs an enquiry service to help you with your research. It is also possible to get copies of some material.

Oxfordshire Library Service

Major libraries around the county have resources to help with family history research, including access to online services.

Oxfordshire Registration Service

You may search the birth, death and marriage indexes in the superintendent registrar's office for a fee. The indexes in a superintendent registrar's office relate only to births, marriages and deaths which occurred within the superintendent registrar's district.

Order certificates

You can order certificates of births, deaths and marriages from 1837.