Tracing your family tree can be a fascinating and absorbing hobby. If you are interested in researching your family history, Lambeth Archives holds a variety of resources to assist you. Our friendly and experienced staff are available to guide you through your first steps, and advise you how to progress.
Once you have decided to trace your family history, start by talking to other members of your family about your grandparents and great-grandparents. Ask them to help you draw out a family tree, starting with yourself and working backwards. Ask for people's full names (including maiden names for married women), birth, marriage and death dates, where they lived, their occupations and their religious beliefs as these are all details which will be useful in your search later on.
Lambeth Libraries now hasa subscription to the library edition of Ancestry - the leading suscription website of genalogical sources. Registered members of the library service can access the site free of charge at any Lambeth Library.
Births, marriages and deaths
Civil registration of births, marriages and deaths began in England and Wales in 1837. However, people were not penalised for not registering from 1875 onwards so early records are incomplete.
To get a copy of a birth, marriage or death certificate you will need to search the General Register Office (GRO) indexes. Lambeth Archives has microfiche copies of the birth and marriage indexes, and you can search the free online births, marriages and deaths index FreeBMD which has most registrations from 1837-1911.
Once you have identified the entry you are interested in you can order a copy certificate for a fee from National Archives, the GRO (which also accepts online applications) or Lambeth Register Office.
Census returns have been taken nationally every ten years since 1801 and from 1841 onwards they contain personal information. The most recent census available for public viewing is the 1901 census. Census returns for the whole of England and Wales are available at the Family Records Centre and the National Archives. Lambeth Archives has microfilm copies of the census for the Lambeth area from 1841 – 1901, and the 1881 census for the whole of the counties of Surrey and Middlesex.
A transcription of the 1881 census for England and Wales is available to search online for free at Family Search. There are also a number of subscription websites where you can search the census returns online for a charge.
When looking for ancestors who were born before 1837 parish registers are one of the key sources available. Registers contain records of baptisms, marriages and burials. Registers are mainly from Church of England churches although some registers from non-conformist places of worship survived.
Lambeth Archives is not a diocesean record office and therefore does not hold any original parish registers. Most parish registers are available at the London Metropolitan Archives, with later ones usually still at the church concerned. Lambeth Archives has microfilm copies of some of the earlier parish registers, and some non-conformist registers.
Information available in cemetery records varies but they all record the name, date of death and date of burial. More often than not they also contain the age, address and occupation of the deceased. The entry will also give a plot or grave number which will enable you to locate a grave on a plan of the cemetery. Lambeth cemeteries and crematoria pages
Poll books were published after elections and showed how each elector voted. The name of the elector and their choice of candidate were always recorded, and some books include address and occupation. Poll books were published until 1872 when the secret ballot became law.
Electoral registers were organised alphabetically by name within each division until the 1880s.
Trade and commercial directories are particularly useful if you are looking for ancestor who had a business or trade. Lambeth Archives has a comprehensive collection of county, London and Local directories from the early nineteenth century onwards.
Local newspapers provide a wealth of information on events and often contain notification of births, deaths (including obituaries) and marriages. Reports of inquests usually occur when the death was in unusual circumstance. Newspapers are rarely indexed so if you do not have an approximate date a search will be time consuming.
Lambeth local newspapers can also be found at the Lambeth reference library in Brixton and the British Library Newspaper Library in Colindale, north west London.
Some useful resources from neighbouring boroughs: