Researching your Hertfordshire ancestors at Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies

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03 April 2017
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Discover how to trace your Hertfordshire ancestors using the many resources held at Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies.

Discover how to trace your Hertfordshire ancestors using the many resources held at Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies.

Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies is the custodian of the county’s historic written heritage, holding over three million records on six miles of shelves. Some of themost requested source material for family historians can now be found online. Hertfordshire’s parish registers, from 1538 to the 20th century have been digitised and made available on Find My Past. You can also search your ancestors’ names in the school admission registers (mainly from the 1850s to 1914) and log books (1862-1914) on Find My Past as well. There are over 400 Hertfordshire school records online.

To browse the holdings, go to the Online Archive Catalogue which holds details about diverse collections from estates to businesses to hospitals and Quarter Sessions, garden cities and New Towns. Some of the image collections are digitised and viewable on this site too. Do ask the friendly staff to search our uncatalogued holdings to see what else the office holds, especially if you can’t find the information online. 

Try looking for a family name at Hertfordshire Names Online. This includes indexes on crime and punishment (summary convictions), nonconformist registers, licences for early marriages, local newspaper titles and absent voters registers. Here you can look for ancestors’ wills (pre-1858); see if they were doing an apprenticeship or living in a Union workhouse (appearing in the county’s surviving admissions and discharge registers indexed) or check if they owned or rented land in around 1840 (recorded in Tithe Awards).

Wanting to share stories about ancestors or your own experiences of the county? Herts Memories is a network of community archives’ sites where people can post photographs and share stories. There are also historical articles on towns and villages, people and places.

Visiting Hertfordshire Archives

There’s plenty to see if you come to the archives, which is based at County Hall in the historic town of Hertford. The Record Office was established in the 1930s and joined forces with the county Local Studies Library in 1997. The earliest document is a charter by Edward the Confessor granting land in Wheathampstead to the monks of Westminster in 1060.

For opening hours see here. There is no charge to view original documents and you can pre-order some in advance (please see the website for details). There is also a copying and search service or you can buy a permit to take your own photographs and do digital downloads from microfilms.

You can look at the monumental inscriptions for family names buried in most of the county’s churchyards, militia lists, street directories, photographic collections, like County Views, and local studies books to find out more about where they lived. You can view poll books and electoral registers. Tithe maps are viewable on CD.

The card-based surname index can point you in the direction of deeds and other records your family might appear in. Newspaper holdings, wills and parish registers are on film and the office now has digital microfilm scanners. If you want to learn more about the places they lived you can consult Ordnance Survey maps and aerial photographs or look at original estate and parish maps from the archives. Also available are charters, letters and diaries, minute books of councils, businesses and societies, sales particulars, manorial court records, records of hospitals and social care and vehicle licences.

If you are struggling with your Hertfordshire family tree, you can book a one-hour family history surgeries with a member of staff for a small charge.

The archive hosts a wide variety of events and activities. Sign up to the Heritage newsletter via Update Me on Hertfordshire County Council’s website or follow @HertsArchives on Twitter.

Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies, Register Office Block, County Hall, Hertford
Hertfordshire, SG13 8EJ. Tel: 0300 123 4049. E-mail; website.

(images copyright Tuck DB Postcards)