30/01/2017
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How to trace your Birmingham ancestors at the Library of Birmingham, Archives & Collections service

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Find out how to trace your Birmingham ancestors with our guide to records held at the Library of Birmingham, Archives & Collections service.

The library is home to millions of historic items dating from the twelfth century to the present day including archives, photos and rare books. Family historians are welcome to explore the collections and there are thousands of records of interest to anyone tracing Birmingham ancestors.

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Birmingham Archives & Collections service holds microfiche/film of the Birmingham census from 1841 to 1901, including suburbs such as Handsworth and Yardley. Although most of the census returns are indexed by street name, there are name indexes for the 1851 and 1881 censuses. You can also access these resources on Ancestry.

You can also track the movements of Birmingham ancestors via electoral registers which are available for the City of Birmingham from 1832 to 2001, with gaps during both World Wars. Pre-1920 registers are not complete and available on microfilm, whilst subsequent registers are in bound volumes. Indexes to the registers are by address although Midlands Historical Data does enable a search by name for a selection of years chiefly between 1920 – 1965.

Birmingham Archives & Collections service has produced an online guide to genealogical research in the Library of Birmingham, which can be downloaded from the website.

Local Studies Collection

The Local Studies collection is a designated repository of printed resources including the following types of materials which may be useful to your research:

  • Birmingham City Council minutes
  • trade directories
  • newspaper cuttings and newspapers
  • scrapbooks, theatre playbills and programmes,
  • maps,
  • business and political literature
  • literature in Birmingham
  • the Joseph Priestly Collection
  • the Aston Cross Collection and ephemera.

Please e-mail for more information on any of the above.

Study and research areas

Visitors are welcome to visit Birmingham Archives & Collections for family history research. There are two study and research areas available: The Heritage Research Area which offers access to genealogical sources including microfilmed parish registers, census records and indexes of birth, marriage and death registers; and The Wolfson Centre for Archive Research, an archives search room which offers an ideal environment to view the archival collections.

The Wolfson Centre offers an appointment service where a place can be reserved by e-mailing. Researchers are also encouraged to consult the online archives catalogue to search listings from more than 1,500 collections before visiting as resources are retrieved in advance of a confirmed booking.

Birmingham Archives & Collections service is a member of CARN (County Archives Research Network) and will accept valid cards issued from other member record offices. Alternatively identification verifying name, address and signature is acceptable.

The Wolfson Centre also operates a daily permit charge for researchers wishing to make reprographic copies of materials for private use which is at the discretion of the Duty Archivist.  

Visiting Birmingham Library Archives

Opening hours: Heritage Research Area – Mon & Tue, 11am-7pm; Wed to Sat, 11am-5pm. Wolfson Centre for Archival Research – Tue 11am-7pm; Wed & Thu, 11am-4.30pm; Sat (one in four) 11am-4pm.

Library of Birmingham, Centenary Square, Broad Street, Birmingham B1 2ND; tel:  0121 242 4242; website.

(Images copyright Tuck DB Postcards)

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