Searching for your family history

Start tracing my family history, do family history online, where to research in the East Riding including at Bridlington and Goole libraries and family history classes. 

How do I start tracing my family history?

Tracing your family history is an interesting and rewarding pastime, and if your family had its origins in the East Riding then there might be information held in our collections.

It's worth remembering that family history can be time-consuming as your research may require patient searching through many different types of record.

Many researchers find it useful to read one of the many books available about tracing family history. You can buy some of these books in the Treasure House shop.

There are also online resources that you can use to help trace your family history, and you may need to find birth, marriage and death certificates.

To find out how to get copies of birth, marriage and death certificates, visit the  copies of registration certificates page. 

You can search family history websites including the library edition of Ancestry.com and Findmypast free of charge in our research room

You can also search the library edition of Ancestry.com in your local library.

To use library computers you will need your library card and to sign the acceptable use policy.

NOTE:  When tracing your family history it is best to keep a record of everything that you look at, even if the search was unsuccessful. This means you will be able to find the source again if you want to check the details and you also will avoid repeating the same research.

Getting Started

Start with known facts about your family and then work backwards.

For example, if you know the details of your grandmother’s birth then her birth/baptism certificate will give the names of her parents.  Then, next you could look for their marriage and births/baptisms.

Find out as much as possible from family members and check any family records such as the following:

  • Certificates
  • Letters
  • Family bibles
  • Photographs.
In these records, you could look for helpful information like the following:
  • Names
  • Family relationships
  • Dates
  • Occupations
  • Where people lived
  • Which church they attended.

Detailed information about specific records for a particular area can then be accessed via our online catalogue.

Many researchers find it useful to read one of the many books available about tracing family history. You can buy some of these books in the Treasure House shop.

Microform copies of many popular sources, such as parish registers, are available in the research room as part of our self-service system. Printed and original sources can also be seen in our research room. Researchers using original documents will need a County Archive Research Network (CARN) reader’s ticket. Microform readers and space to look at original documents can be booked in advance of a visit.


Newspapers can include notices of family events, obituaries and reports of court cases and coroners’ inquests. We hold local newspapers for the late 18th-21st centuries, although many of the earlier ones start in 1856. These are generally available on microfilm although some newspapers dating from the mid 20th century are only held as paper copies. Detailed information about individual newspapers is available on request.

Bridlington, Goole Local Studies Libraries also hold newspapers for their particular areas. These can be studied on microfilm. Contact the library to book a microfilm reader.

Hull History Centre holds newspapers for Hull

Hull History Centre (external website)

The British Newspaper Archive has 691 titles available online. You can search these for free by visiting us

British Newspaper Archive (external website) 

Civil registration records

Birth, marriage and death certificates were introduced in 1837. Before then records were kept by churches. Births and deaths are recorded by Register Officers. To get copies of birth and death certificates you will need to contact the local register officer or the national General Register Office (GRO). They also have records of marriages. You can apply for certificates online.

The national General Register Officer (external website)

Parish registers

These registers record baptisms, marriages and burials in the Church of England. The oldest records begin between 1538 and 1598 although the earliest ones might not have survived. There can be gaps during the Civil War and Commonwealth period c.1640-1660 when records were often not properly kept.

We hold the records for the Archdeaconry of the East Riding, which includes Hull and Scarborough. Most of these are available on microfiche (reference PE) as part of our self-service system to preserve the original volumes.

Please note: you can now search for ancestors in our parish registers on the Findmypast website.  The website can be searched for free by visiting us.

Findmypast (external website)

You can find out more about what parish registers we hold here.

Nonconformist registers

Nonconformists are those who belong to Protestant churches other than the Church of England; this includes Baptists, Congregationalists, Methodists, Presbyterians and Quakers. Many of these kept registers of births or baptisms and deaths or burials.

Marriages between 1754 and 1836 had to be conducted in an Anglican church, except for Jews and Quakers, and should be recorded in the parish registers. Marriages could take place in nonconformist chapels from 1837 in the presence of a civil registrar who recorded the ceremony.

Many early nonconformist registers were passed to the Registrar General in 1840 and these are held at The National Archives in London. We have microfilm copies of many of the East Riding and Hull ones this series also includes some Catholic registers.

You can find out more about what non-Church of England registers we have here.

Cemetery records

Most people were buried in a Church of England churchyard until the middle of the 19th century. Public cemeteries administered by local authorities came into use as the population grew and the churchyards became overcrowded. Most cemeteries were owned and managed by district, town or parish councils.

The following document is a list of cemetery records we hold.

Cemetery records leaflet (pdf 39kb opens in new window)

The archives and local studies service holds copies of monumental inscriptions and Bridlington and Goole librarieshold them for churchyards in their areas.


The first national census was taken in 1801 and one has been completed every 10 years since then, except in 1941. Information from the national census returns for 1841-1901 can also be searched online via the Ancestry.library edition in the research room at the Treasure Houseor your local library.

Electoral Registers and Poll Books

Electoral registers list the individuals entitled to vote at elections, which was originally based on a property qualification.


Directories can be useful for tracing families between the census years and in the 20th century. The number of people listed in each directory is however limited and the information may not have been up to date when it was published.

Wills and Probate Records

Wills can be a useful source as they often contain bequests to family members and can provide information about family relationships. A will has to be ‘proved’ after the person has died to be legally valid. Wills before 1858 were proved in church courts, after that date they were the responsibility of civil probate registries.

Further information about wills held is available in the following leaflet:

Wills leaflet (pdf 25kb opens in new window)

School Records

The records which generally are of most use to family historians are the admission registers. These can include the name and address of the child and parents, the child’s date of birth, the date of admission and often the date they left school.

Some school records are closed because of the personal information that they contain, particularly those relating to the reform schools.

Court Records

The administration of justice took place at various courts depending on the nature and severity of the offence. These included the local Quarter Sessions for minor crimes and the Assize courts for more serious ones, in particular capital crimes.

The Quarter Sessions was originally also responsible for various administrative or non-judicial matters and its records may contain information about lunatics, alehouse licensing, land tax and poor relief as well as many other subjects.

Can I do my family history online?

Yes some of it. There are lots of resources for family history on the internet. These can be a really good place to start your research. When you get further in your research you will probably need to visit a record office or archive.

You can use computers in the Treasure Houseor in your local libraryfor free to visit websites including Ancestry.com Library edition online. You will need your library card number, and to sign the acceptable use policy at libraries to sign onto this service.

The following are some of the most useful sites:


The parish registers for East Yorkshire are now available on the findmypast website.  You can search this for free by  visiting us

Findmypast (external website)


Ancestry's website provides information from censuses, birth, marriage and death records and a huge range of other resources. Included are records for the U.S.A., Canada, Australia and information from many European countries. Information is also available on transportation and immigration/emigration.

Ancestry (external website)

British Newspaper Archive

Choose from 691 archive newspaper titles and search over 15 million pages of historic content. You can search this for free by visiting us.

British Newspaper Archive (external website)


This is the genealogy information service for the UK and Ireland and it runs as a charitable trust. It has links with the Federation of Family History Societies, The Society of Genealogists and Rootsweb. There is a vast amount of genealogical material available on this site and it can be accessed via local areas.

Genuki (external website)

Family Search

This is produced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City, Utah). The 1881 Census for England is included, and the IGI. (International Genealogical Index) which is a selection of entries from Parish Registers extending circa 1550 – 1850 in some cases. The information should be taken as a guide and the original documents should be checked to confirm details. It also exists as a CD and on microfiche, and the larger local studies libraries have it in those formats as well.

Family Search (external website)


This is the umbrella group for the One-Name Study organisation based at the Society of Genealogists in London. A Register of One-Name Studies is included that is available for checking free of charge. (7000 surnames)

One-Name (external website)

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission. This lists all military casualties from World War I and World War II often with a picture of the cemetery and details of the next of kin.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission (external website)


The Government’s principal e-portal. Search the site for “Family history” to find guides to researching family trees, and to order certificates online.

Direct Gov (external website)

The National Archives

The official archive for England, Wales and the central UK government. Based in Kew. Contains “1000 years of history from Domesday book to the present”, with records from parchment scrolls to digital files and archived websites.

The National Archives (external website)

General Register Offices births, marriages and deaths

General Register Offices Birth, Marriages and Deaths (GRO BMD) is based on secondary indexes from the General Register Office. The local BMD on this site consists of indexes created from the original registration entries held by local registrars, and so is generally more accurate.

General Register Office (external website)

Genealogical directories and lists

This consists of genealogical directories and lists on the Internet. The site includes links to school lists, trade directories, electoral rolls old photographs, etc.

Genealogical directories uk (external website)

Military family history

Military family history on the Internet. Includes muster rolls, discharge papers, pension records and much more.

Military family history (external website)


For indexes of births, marriages and deaths.

Freebmd (external website)

Yorkshire bmd (external website)

Where in the East Riding can I go to do my family history?

You can use computers in the research room at the Treasure Houseor in your local library. You will need a library card, and to sign the acceptable use policy at libraries to use this service.

Although you can find lots of information online, at some point you will probably need to go to a local record office or archive. The East Riding archives and local studies serviceprovides this service for the East Riding. The service is based in the Treasure Housebuilding in Beverley. Here you will be able to look at parish registers and other local archives that will help you with your family history.

For families who came from Bridlington or Goole, there are local studies libraries in these places that may help you with your family history.

If your family came from outside of the East Riding then you may have to visit another record office or archive. Archon is a directory of local archives.

Archon (external website)

Can I search for my family history at Goole and Bridlington libraries?

Yes. Both Bridlington and Goole Libraries house a Local Studies collection, and like all libraries they have books for loan on tracing your family tree. You can search the library cataloguefor books to help you with your research. You can use the library computersto access a range of useful websites. Find out about how to join the libraryhere.

A variety of family and local history magazines are also full of tips on tracing your family tree, and both libraries hold Parish registers, Poll Books, Registers of Electors and Trade Directories for Goole, Bridlington and surrounding areas.

You may find reports on family members, wedding photographs or other relevant articles in local historical newspapers. You can book a microfilm reader for up to one hour at a time.

There are also local Monumental Inscriptions detailing many churchyards and cemeteries throughout the area. The cemeteriesservice also holds records of burials in cemeteries.

Do you run any family history classes?

 We hope to run more of our popular classes on researching your family history in the near future.  Watch this space for announcements.

Family History in the Archives course

Family history is a fascinating and rewarding pastime. Whether you are a complete beginner or have been researching your family tree for a while, expert tutors from the Archives service can teach you the skills you need to find out more about your ancestors. During the course you’ll be introduced to all the different records you need to start tracing your family tree.

The course usually runs twice a year and lasts 11 weeks.  Sessions are from 6pm-7.30pm.


The course costs £75 for 11 weeks.

How to book

Please note: The Family History in the Archives course is currently unavailable, but you can still register your interest, or find out more information, by calling the East Riding Archives (at the Treasure House) on:

Telephone: (01482) 392790 (Monday to Saturday).

Enquiries can also be made in person at the Treasure House (Archives and Local Studies).

Topics covered

  • Starting your family history
  • Using birth, marriage and death certificates and indexes
  • Preparing to use original archives
  • Parish registers
  • Printed records and newspapers
  • Records of schools, education and work
  • Crime and Poverty
  • Will and property records
  • Finding ancestors in military records
  • Using the records of the historic census