Hooked by the the BBC's 'Who Do You Think You Are?' and now interested in finding your roots? Many people use the Cumbria Archive Service to trace their Cumbrian Ancestors. Tracing your family history may involve looking through a large number of original documents for the details you need. You can look for information on your Cumbrian family tree by visiting one of our Cumbria Archive Centres or by using our historical research service.
Before visiting us you will need to find out more about our Archive Centres and then come along with as much information as you can on your family.
1. HOW TO START RESEARCHING YOUR FAMILY TREE Gather as much about your family as you can from home. Start with yourself and work backwards, trying to compile details of dates and places of birth, marriage and death of relatives known to you and other members of your family. You may find that old certificates of birth, marriage and death help or that older family members recollect some details. Many of the sources that you will consult are church records so it is helpful if you can find out what denomination your ancestors belonged to, and in which parish or parishes they lived.
Find out more by looking at one of the many published guides on family history research.These will save you a lot of time, familiarising you with the steps you will have to take and the variety of archives that you are available in record offices. You can borrow books from your library, or consult one of the on-line guides to family history in England and Wales such as the BBC's at www.bbc.co.uk/familyhistory that or GENUKI's guides on 'Getting Started in Genealogy and Family History' at http://www.genuki.org.uk/gs/. Cumbrian Ancestors is our book on how to trace your Cumbrian family tree, with full details of the archives that you can use in our Archive Centres; find out how to buy it on our Publications section.
Be realistic! Family history can be time-consuming and it may be that you won't be able to find all the information you would like to find. We will do our best to help you!
2. CHURCH REGISTERS OF BAPTISM, MARRIAGE AND BURIAL The four Cumbria Archive Centres each hold church registers, from a wide number of Church of England and nonconformist churches, relating to their part of Cumbria. These are one of the main sources that family historians use as, in many cases, they predate the keeping of civil certificates of birth, marriage and death and the nineteenth century census returns. You may find that you can find out information relating to successive generations of one family by working back through these registers. If you don't know which parish your family lived in you can look at the International Genealogical Index (IGI), available for the locality in each Cumbria Archive Centre. This indexes many of Cumbria's church registers of baptisms and marriages by name for the period before about 1875. Alternatively, you can search it on-line on the web site of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, http://www.familysearch.org.
3. CUMBRIAN CENSUS RETURNS Census returns were taken every ten years from 1841 but the detailed schedules are closed for 100 years after their compilation. The censuses of 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901 and 1911 should record all people living in the country on census night in that particular year. They are very useful as you will see entire households living together, with information on their ages, places of birth and occupations.
Census returns are arranged by historic county and you can see those for Cumberland 1841-1901 at the Carlisle and Whitehaven offices, South Cumberland and Lancashire North of the Sands 1841-1891 at Barrow and Whitehaven and Westmorland 1841-1901 at Kendal Library, and the Kendal and Whitehaven offices. You can find census records for the whole country on-line on the fee-charging site http://www.ancestry.co.uk (Cumbria Libraries can offer access to this site without you requiring a subscription). Census returns for 1911 can only be seen on-line at www.1911census.co.uk.
4. BIRTH, MARRIAGE AND DEATH CERTIFICATES AFTER 1837 Certificates of birth, marriage and death can be very useful in helping you start researching your family tree, particularly if you don't have enough information to take you back into the 19th century. However, Cumbria Archive Service does not issue copies of post 1837 civil certificates. Instead you can buy them from Superintendent Registrars in the district in which the event was originally registered or nationally from the General Register Office. Their web site http://www.direct.gov.uk/gro gives more information on applying for certificates.
You can look at the indexes to these certificates, which contain only limited details, at the Archive Centres in Barrow and Whitehaven and at Carlisle Library.
5. CUMBRIAN WILLS AND INVENTORIES These records can be of great use to family historians but do remember that only a small proportion of the population left wills. Using these records is complicated by the fact that they were based on particular areas of the country, called probate jurisdictions, which are very different to the administrative districts in place today. If you contact the Cumbria Archive Centre nearest to the place you are interested in, staff will be able to tell you about the whereabouts and availability of wills and inventories for the period in question.
6. NEEDING HELP RESEARCHING YOUR FAMILY TREE You can commission one Cumbria Archive Service's experienced researchers to use the variety of resources available in the Cumbria Archive Centres to research your family tree for you. Please complete and return the application form, which you can do on-line at http://www.cumbria.gov.uk/archives/research, giving as much detail as you can.
7. FINDING INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR ANCESTORS ON OUR WEBSITE For references to individual documents or the people mentioned in them you'll need to search Cumbria Archive Service's online catalogue or the A2A website for some descriptions of Cumbrian documents (http://www.a2a.org.uk). Tracing your family tree will actually involve a lot of detective work on your behalf using the original sources we look after, but this can be very rewarding! You may find that other family historians may be able to help you out: try contacting the Cumbria Family History Society, the Furness Family History Society or a discussion list.
Good Luck With Your Research!