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Welcome to Bedford Borough Council

Family history research in Bedfordshire

Tracing your family tree in Bedfordshire

Tracing your family history can be a fascinating and rewarding pastime but it takes time and patience. Here are some of our preparatory recommendations for the budding genealogist before coming to a local archives:
  • The place to start enquiring about your family history is at home. See what information you can gather from family members about your ancestors. This could include full and maiden names, dates and places of birth, marriage and death, occupations, places where they might have previously lived, organisations they may have been a part of. But remember that memories are not always reliable and this information cannot be taken as fact. 
  • What written records do you already have about your subject of enquiry? This could be anything from family bibles, diaries, wills, certificates, letters etc. to objects which would indicate where a person worked during their lifetime.
  • Read one of the many guides to family history research available in bookshops and libraries. They explain how to start your search, the sort of sources you're likely to use, what information you can expect to find in them and where to see them. This will be invaluable for making sense of the records in the next stages of your search. You can discover more about what to expect in our collections by browsing the Using Our Collections tab. 
  • Find out if anyone else has done work on your family by contacting a local Family History Society, such as Bedfordshire Family History Society (new window) which will usually have a register of members' interests. 
There are many other online resources to help you in your search:
  • Freebmd (new window) holds birth, marriage and death indexes free of charge.
  • Find My Past (new window) holds full copies of the indexes which can be viewed for a subscription fee.
  • Ancestry (new window) also holds full copies. These websites are are also free to browse at the archives or with any library in Bedford Borough or Central Bedfordshire local authorities. We just ask that you specify when booking that this is the service you require.

If you know when and where an event took place you can also approach the local Bedford Registrar. We do NOT hold copies of the indexes in this office and we do NOT issue civil registration certificates of birth, death or marriage. Once you have the reference from the index you can order copies from the General Register Office (new window).

At Bedfordshire Archives the main source will be Church of England Parish Registers of baptisms, marriages and burials. Indexed transcripts of the registers up to 1812 are available to buy in book form.
Other useful sources we hold for family historians are shown below. Some are described in more detail on other sections of this site and some can also now be found online, so look out for the links provided.