Researching your family history

More and more people are becoming interested in family history. Tracing your family tree can be a fascinating, rewarding and, sometimes frustrating, hobby. Your research should start with what you know. Speak to family members and ask to look at documents and photographs to start you off.

There are many sources of information available to help you. Certificates can provide information going back to 1837. Parish registers, newspapers and other records can be useful sources to help you with your search.

Registrar’s records

You can trace your family history by searching through registrars records. You’ll need to contact the register office in the district where the birth, death or marriage took place. You should note that boundary changes over the years can sometimes affect the district you need to search in.

You’ll find a full list of register offices in England and Wales on the GOV.UK website.

You can usually contact the register office you need by post, phone, email or in person. Depending on the amount of information you have, your request might take some time. This is because a search by staff might be needed. The arrangements in each district office may vary slightly.

Barnsley Register Office holds the registers for births, deaths and marriages that have taken place in the Barnsley district from 1837. Parish records can be looked at for details of baptisms, marriages and burials before this.

If you want to search our indexes you’ll need to contact us to make a request. This will always be at the discretion of the Superintendent Registrar.

If you want any copies of certificates you’ll have to pay an additional fee for these. See our registration charges for details.

We can’t provide copy certificates for people who were adopted. You’ll need to contact the General Register Office for copy certificates for people who are adopted.

Libraries and archives

Archives will usually be your main place to do local research. They hold the majority of records you’ll need for your search.

Barnsley Archives and Local Studies hold parish registers as well as newspapers, cemetery records, census returns and other sources.

They also have a large number of indexes, records and digital sources from other parts of the UK. They provide free access to well known websites such as Ancestry and Find My Past. You can also:

  • access the British Library’s Newspaper Archive (via the Find My Past website)
  • find images about the coal mining industry and the regeneration of coalfield communities in South and West Yorkshire in the Yococo image database

Archives hold a free half hour family history surgery once a month. These sessions get full quickly, so you should contact us to book a place. Staff are always available to advise and give guidance. They can help you on your way.

The websites below offer further information on historical searches.