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Researching family history

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Researching family history

Getting started

Before you start tracing your family history it is a good idea to read one of the many books written about family history. We have a selection of these, as well as guides to the location of records elsewhere in the country.

Current issues of Ancestors (the National Archives magazine), Family Tree magazine, and Metropolitan (the journal of the London and North Middlesex Family History Society) are available in the Centre.

Guides to research 

    The National Archives website
    Genuki, the UK and Ireland genealogical information service
    Cyndi's List is a worldwide guide to genealogical websites
    Family Search, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints website enables you search the International Genealogical Index and their extensive family history database online
    London Metropolitan Archives

Sources of information

This section gives brief information about the types of sources that can be used for family history research that are found in the Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre. Much of the material that you may need to use has been microfilmed and is available on a self-help basis.

General indexes and catalogues

These card files contain a vast amount of information on people and places in the area and an initial search through these may save a lot of time and effort. For example, it may record the change of a street name or the existence of previous research about a local family.

Census returns (1841-1901)

Census returns for the Camden are available on microfilm for every tenth year from 1841 to 1901, these are arranged by address. . They are extremely useful as they provide a list of everyone present at an address on census night with details of relationship to the head of the household, age, marital status, occupation and place of birth.

Researchers can go online to access census records on: - this is a subscription site but the library edition is available to use for free in any Camden library.

Electoral registers

Electoral registers are lists of everyone at a particular address who is registered to vote. This was based on a property qualification until 1918 when all men over 21 and most women over 30 were given the vote (women may have local votes at earlier dates if they had a property qualification).

This was extended in 1928 to include all women over 21. A surprising amount of information can be extracted from these, including the new surname of a married woman or the existence of other relatives staying with the family. Registers were not compiled during the First and Second World Wars. Some absent voters lists are available which give the names of soldiers in the armed forces along with their army service number. This can be an aid to further research in military records.

Visit our electoral registers page.


We have an incomplete file of directories for London dating from the mid-18th century onwards. These usually contain a court section that lists residents A-Z by name, a commercial section that lists businesses A-Z by name and a classified trades section. From the mid-19th century they include a street section in order of address.

We also hold some local directories for specific areas such as Camden and Kentish Towns and Hampstead. These are more detailed and are of greater use for tracing local residents. Directories are also useful for discovering the names and locations of local schools, churches and other institutions.


These do not provide much personal information as they simply list the name of the ratepayer at a particular address. However, they can be useful to establish how long someone occupied a property and some books provide the owner's name, if different from the ratepayer. There are no name indexes to the ratebooks.

Parish registers

Parish registers are useful for tracing baptisms, marriages and burials which took place before the introduction of National Registration in 1837. We hold microfilm copies of the registers of St John Hampstead from 1560 to c.1837. Other registers have either been retained by the church concerned or deposited in London Metropolitan Archives.

We have guides to the location of parish registers in London and elsewhere.

International Genealogical Index

We hold the 1992 edition of the IGI for London and Middlesex. This is a name index to many (but not all) parish register entries for marriages and christenings up to 1875. Family Search, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints family history database can be searched on the Centre's Internet terminals.


Cemetery records

These are usually kept with the parish records of the church concerned or, in the case of municipal cemeteries, at the cemetery itself. The records of burials in Highgate Cemetery, Swain's Lane, from 1839 are available here in the Centre. The surname indexes are arranged by year of burial so it is vital to establish a date of death before a search is attempted.

The indexes provide the last address of the deceased and the grave registers reveal the names of any other people buried in the same plot.

Monumental inscriptions

These are inscriptions copied from gravestones or memorials in a church or vault and may contain personal details and family connections.


We have a limited number of other transcriptions of records including some parish registers.

Manorial records

The majority of manorial records have been deposited in London Metropolitan Archives.

We have some copies of material relating to Hampstead Manor, including Manor Minutes 1742-1843 and extracts from the Court Rolls, 1607-1843. These record changes in tenancy and disputes dealt with by the Lord of the Manor.

Vestry and borough minutes

Most useful if your ancestor was a vestryman on councillor but there may be references to an individual if he or she had some dealings or dispute with the parish or the local authority.


Many deeds and other documents have been deposited in the Centre and have been recorded under name and address in the general indexes.


The earliest local papers in our collection date from 1866. These can provide information about local events, crimes, obituaries and advertisements for businesses. Very few of our newspapers have been indexed.


Most of our illustrations are of places and buildings but there are a few portraits, mainly of local dignitaries, and some group photographs of clubs, organisations and school classes.

Our earliest photographs date back to the 1860s but most date from the 1890s onwards.

School records

These have generally been retained by the school or deposited in London Metropolitan Archives.

Poor Law records

We have some information relating to the provision of poor relief by the local parishes but most records relating to the Poor Law Unions are in London Metropolitan Archives.

We have full lists of the records held there, which relate to our area.