Local studies and family history in libraries

Information about local studies and family history resources in libraries

Family history in libraries

Oxfordshire libraries have a wide variety of printed books and resources to help you start researching your family history, with more books available at the bigger libraries.

The Oxfordshire History Centre in Cowley has full facilities and copies of all records and local studies material for the county. Other libraries also have smaller collections relating to family history and local studies for their area.

All libraries provide free access to Ancestry Library Edition and Find My Past through the Reference Online service. These are very powerful resources for family historians, and include access to a wide variety of information, including:

  • British censuses 1841–1911
  • GRO Birth, Marriage and Death indexes 1837-2006
  • Divorce indexes 1858–1903
  • London parish and poor law records
  • National Probate Calendar (Index to Wills and Administrations) 1858-1966
  • British Army service and pension records 1914–1920
  • British Army Medal Roll index cards 1914–1920
  • UK incoming passenger lists 1878–1960
  • Passenger lists leaving UK 1890–1960
  • Soldiers Died in the Great War
  • Army Roll of Honour 1939–45
  • US federal census 1790–1930
  • Australian convict transportation registers and passenger lists

Family history helpdesks

The family history helpdesk at Oxfordshire County Library is staffed by experienced volunteers from the Oxfordshire Family History Society who can help you to get started and also give advice if you have already embarked on researching your family tree.

The Oxfordshire Family History Society also offers one-to-one help and advice sessions on a regular basis at the following libraries:

Please call the library to book a session and find out more.

Other libraries are sometimes able to offer occasional sessions on request - please ask at your local library.

You can also see the main family history section for more information.

Local studies in libraries

Books about the history of Oxfordshire, the history of the area around each library, and about beginning your family history can be found in all our libraries, with more books available at the bigger libraries.

Abingdon, Banbury, Bicester, Didcot, Henley, Oxfordshire County, Wantage and Witney libraries also have sizeable collections of printed, microform and online resources including newspapers, maps and transcripts of local parish registers. Other libraries have books on their immediate area and a selection of titles of wider interest.

You can see what books libraries have on our library catalogue and, if you’re a member of the library, you can reserve and renew books online after logging in with your PIN.

All libraries have information on local studies and family history available, with more resources on offer in the larger libraries. This makes the library a great place to get started on your research, or to get advice and suggestions on what resources would best help you find the information you're looking for.

You can also see the main history pages for more information.

Oxfordshire History Centre

The county’s main local studies and family history collections are at the Oxfordshire History Centre. Here you will find specialist staff and major resources for studying the county including books, newspapers and other printed materials as well as maps, photographs and oral history recordings. You can find their online catalogue, known as Heritage Search, at www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/heritagesearch. We recommend using the Advanced Search option if you are using anything other than a single key word for searching.

The History Centre also offers free access to Ancestry Library Edition and many other useful websites as well as a host of computer based and microform resources.

If you are unable to visit, the Oxfordshire History Centre offers a research service for up to a maximum of two hours to answer specific enquiries. Alternatively, you can obtain a list of private researchers from The Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives (AGRA).

Where else to go

Depending on your research interests the following services may also help you:

  • Oxfordshire Museums Service makes available collections from all over the county and provides curatorial services to other museums in Oxfordshire.
  • Oxfordshire Registration Service has birth, death and marriage indexes for the superintendent registrar's district. You can search these indexes for a fee at Oxford Registration Office and obtain copies of certificates.
  • Berkshire Record Office has original documents for Berkshire, which you will need if you are studying the history of parishes in the Vale of White Horse.
  • The Oxfordshire Family History Society provides a large number of resources, both on their website and to Oxfordshire Libraries. They also have family history advisors who run drop-in sessions to help you get started.