St.Helens Local History and Archives Library


Tracing your Family Tree

Stage One From your own resources find out as much information as possible about your ancestors as this should aid your research.

Check: Any old correspondence, birth, marriage or death certificates, old family Bibles, deeds, wills or any family heirlooms.
Talk to: Any relative, especially old ones or even friends of the family. Do not dismiss all the family 'legends', but make a note of them as they may contain some elements of truth, even though some aspects may have been embellished over the years.

Try to ascertain some or all of the following facts about as many ancestors as possible - but do not despair if this is not feasible.

  • Dates of birth, marriage or death
  • Names of immediate close family
  • Specific names and addresses of everyone
  • Jobs, trades or professions held
  • Religion and place of worship
  • Family names, especially surnames on the female side of the family.

Stage Two There is always a possibility that your family tree has already been researched and published. Although this seldom happens it may be worthwhile to check the following type of book:

  • BARROW, G.B. & CAMP, A.J. The genealogists guide. 1977
  • BRIDGER, C. An index to printed pedigrees. 1867
  • MARSHALL, G.W. The genealogists guide to printed pedigrees. 1879
  • THOMPSON, T.R. A catalogue of British family histories. 1980

Research into a specific family name may already be in progress on a private basis. The following work should therefore be consulted:

  • JOHNSON, K.A. & SAINTY, M.R. Genealogical research directory - national and international. Or any similar source.

Stage Three When you have accumulated as much information as possible, the Local History and Archives Library can assist your research by providing access to the following records. (At this stage it might also be useful to join a family history society and/or adult education class, as both these organisations can provide useful guidance to the maze of sources available and potential problems).

1. Census returns (35mm Microfilm)

From 1841-1901 the department holds the detailed decennial enumerator's returns for the whole of the modem borough of St.Helens. These describe each family unit, making it possible to discover names, addresses, occupations, age or birthplace (after 1851).

2. Census returns (Microfiche and CD-Rom)

The 1881 census index on microfiche is available for England, Wales, Channel Islands and Isle of Man, while the CD version of the same data also covers Scotland. The 1891 census index for Scotland is also on microfiche.

3. Civil Registration Indices (16mm Microfilm and Microfiche)

Births 1837-1980
Marriages 1837-1980
Deaths 1837-1980
16mm microfilm 1837-1912
microfiche thereafter 1913-1960

This source is variously referred to as St.Catherine's House Index, the General Register Office Index or just the G.R.O. It provides an Index of all births, marriages and deaths registered in England and Wales and should ideally provide enough information to obtain a copy of a full certificate from a local registry office or enable one to apply for a certificate by post, by sending the appropriate fee to:

Postal Applications Section,
Smedley Hydro, Birkdale,
Southport, Merseyside,
PR8 2HH.
Telephone: 01704 563563

Applications may also be made in person at:

The National Archives, 1 Myddelton Street, Islington, LONDON, EC1R 1UW.

4. Directories

St.Helens directories start in 1819 and continue at irregular intervals to the 1960s. They can provide names and addresses but the earlier volumes exclude the vast majority of ordinary people.

5. International Genealogical Index (I.G.I.) (Microfiche)

Covers the whole of the U.K., Ireland and the Channel Islands giving within county sequence access to several million baptismal and marriage entries. It must be remembered however that although every county is listed, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has not covered every parish and the emphasis is on Anglican records.

6. International Genealogical Index (I.G.I.) (CD-Rom)

In this format the I.G.I. is held for the world though not every country or every church has been covered. It is possible to access data by name or county and is especially useful for elusive ancestors.

7. Local newspapers (35mm Microfilm)

Most of the St.Helens newspapers are held from 1855 to the present date. They can supply information on births, marriages and deaths and major local incidents, but the older newspapers may be of lesser use as there was greater emphasis on national news.

8. Parish Registers

The department has a good collection of local registers, most of which are in microform or transcript. A complete set of the Lancashire Parish Register Society volumes is also held along with the useful guides of the National Index of Parish Registers.

9. Register of Electors

Registers are held for the old borough of St.Helens from 1870 to the present date. The urban districts subsumed into St.Helens are only covered from 1974.

10. Ordnance Survey and Tithe Maps

Ordnance Survey maps are available for the whole borough from the 1840s onwards. Copies of the nineteenth century tithe maps and apportionments are also held for the borough and may assist in pinpointing landowners and occupiers, houses, land-use and field names.

11. Wills and inventories

Although a few copies of local wills and inventories are stocked, the volumes of the Record Society of Lancashire and Cheshire are available to locate wills in either the Cheshire Record Office or the Lancashire Record Office from 1457 - 1858.

12. A good range of genealogical periodicals and books is also held along with complete sets of the volumes of the:

  • Chetham Society
  • Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire
  • Record Society of Lancashire and Cheshire

The Local History and Archives Library is the repository for the local municipal archives and also has good local history collections, all of which can be accessed via card indexes, calendars, bibliographies and information files in the Search Room.

Opening Times and Access

St.Helens Local History and Archives Library,
Central Library, Gamble Institute,
Victoria Square, St.Helens, Merseyside, WA10 1DY

St Helens Central Library is currently closed; however, access to the St Helens archives within the Gamble Building continues to be available by appointment, please contact LHA[at]sthelens.gov[dot]uk for more information or to book an appointment.
During the closure of Central Library, St Helens Library Service has increased the number of archive resources available at Eccleston Library. This includes maps of historic St Helens from the 1840's to the 20th century, micro films of local St Helens newspapers, reader printer facilities and electoral registers from 1900. Along with all other St Helens libraries, Eccleston Library also offers customers free access to the ‘Find my Past’ and ‘Ancestry’ websites.

See library web page for more details.

There is access for disabled people via a lift from street level.

The nearest car park is in BIRCHLEY STREET at the side of the St.Helens Town Hall.

Although the Central Library does not have catering facilities, there are many such establishments within five minutes walk.

Please note that it is imperative to book a microform reader or computer before visiting the library. It is also useful to bring a pencil to take notes as ink pens can damage original documents and books.