> National Centres of Information > Introduction


national centres


There are a substantial number of repositories and societies in England and Wales that constitute national centres of genealogical information and expertise.

The National Archives at Kew is the key repository for finding records related to ancestors who worked for the central government or served in the armed forces. It also contains key collections related to central government taxation (lay subsidies, hearth taxes, land taxes, death duties), pre 1858 wills proved at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, prison and other criminal records and nonconformist records of births, marriages and deaths.

For wills proved in England and Wales since 11 January 1858, the key repository is the Probate Registry within the Court Service. Indexes to all wills and letters of administration proved in England and Wales from 1858 to the present day can be viewed at the Principal Registry Office in the City of London. Copies of the grant of probate together with the associated will can be obtained in person from the Principal Registry Office or through the post from the Postal Searches Office based in York.

There are two major national libraries that hold records of key genealogical interest:

  • The British Library holds a wide variety of records, including a comprehensive collection of Electoral Registers and British Army and Royal Navy Lists - it also holds the most extensive worldwide collection of national and local newspapers and magazines for the British Isles
  • The National Library of Wales at Aberystwyth contains several collections of key interest to family historians researching their Welsh ancestry including parish registers, nonconformist registers, pre 1858 wills, census returns and electoral registers.
  There are three national/international genealogical societies within England and Wales that are of particular note:
  • The Federation of Family History Societies is the umbrella organisation for the majority of family history societies within the U.K. It supports over 220 family history societies and other genealogical bodies world-wide with a total membership of over 180,000.
  • The Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies based in Canterbury is the premier body for genealogical training and research
  • The Society of Genealogists holds a wide variety of genealogical records including the largest collection of microfilm/fiche copies of parish registers within the U.K. It is conveniently located within London's 'Genealogists Golden Triangle'
  In addition to these bodies, there are a good number of special interest societies with a genealogical focus on specific occupations, religions, surnames and the like.
This page last updated: 29 August 2014