Those embarking on research in Cumberland may be forgiven for being confused - the Cumbria Archive Services offer the choice of no less than four Record Offices! Most counties are covered by just the one! However the Carlisle Record Office (CRO) may be the first, and most productive stop for many researchers.
Here you will find original source material for 'the part of the historic county of Cumberland which is north of the River Derwent'. Carlisle, Keswick, Penrith and Maryport are places contained in this area. For the rest of the former county of Cumberland, see the Whitehaven Record Office below. The CRO is located within the walls of Carlisle Castle, and you may be fortunate enough to see the changing of the guard when you visit! There is a car park just to the west of the Castle and it is not necessary to pay the visitor's admission to the Castle if your business is at the CRO. The usual Record Office security precautions are however in place - you will be required to leave outer clothing and briefcases, etc., in the provided lockers before entering the search room. The originals of the Church of England parish registers, various Court Records, Probate indexes and copies of most Wills as well as a wide range of other records will be found here, as well as microfilm of the 1841 and 1851 census. Other census years may be found at County Local Studies Libraries. A Reader's Ticket is required but may be applied for on the first visit. (Information is provided about how paid research can be requested.) They're nice people at the CRO and it is always a pleasant visit. The remainder of Cumberland is covered by the Whitehaven Office:-
The Whitehaven Archive and Local Studies Centre provides access to records relating to 'the area of West Cumbria bounded by the River Derwent in the North and the River Duddon in the South'. Typically, this covers the area around Workington, Cockermouth, and Whitehaven. Typical contents are similar to the Carlisle Record Office. Microfilmed and printed copies of Cumberland material may also be found at the Kendal Record Office:-
ARCHON (Archives On-Line) Information service for locations of other Record Offices throughout the country. Added 15 Jun 2005 for compatibility with DBY/GLS/HEF.
The Tullie House is a museum and art gallery with an emphasis on the area's Roman and turbulent border history. If your family was involved with the reivers, it's worth a visit. It is immediately across from the Castle and they also have a postal research service which seems to specialize in researching reivers and outlaws.
The Carlisle Library is located within the Lanes, a pedestrian shopping area about half a mile from the Castle. It's a modern, well equipped facility with good general holdings. They have microfilm census returns for most of the available years, and they are adding additional film readers. Most of the interesting material is not on open shelves but can be asked for at the 2nd floor desk across from the microfilm readers. On my [Ed: Don's] visits, the staff have been helpful and knowledgeable. Cumbria County Council also provide Cumbria Libraries : Location Details for Libraries elsewhere in the county.
The following libraries also have material of relevance to Cumberland research: