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Mail :
Plymouth Central Library
Community Services
Drake Circus
Plymouth City Council
Plymouth PL1 2AA
Phone :
01752 305203
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Family history

We have resources to help you with your family history research whether you are a beginner or an experienced researcher.

If you are just starting out, we recommend you try to gather as much information as possible using what you already know and talking to relatives.

If you want to know more about getting started try the list of websites on the cyberLibrary. or download our guide to Family History resources in Plymouth.

All libraries (except Eggbuckland) provide free access to Ancestry Library Edition and Find My Past.

Local resources

Unless otherwise stated the following resources are held in the History Room on the first floor of the Central Library.

Births, marriages, deaths and divorce

The civil registration of births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales began on 1 July 1837. For records before this you will need to look at parish registers.

Births, Marriages and Deaths are available on Ancestry Library Edition and Find My Past.

We have a complete set of the General Register Office indexes on microfiche, including:

  • Births and deaths from 1837 to 2010
  • Marriages from 1837 to 2009
  • Overseas from 1761 to 2010
  • Civil partnerships from 2005 to 2010
  • Adoptions from 1927 to 2010
  • Provisional indexes for births and deaths for 2011

Parish registers

Parish registers record baptisms, marriages and burials. For most parishes, they will start in the 1500s and continue to the present day.

The History Room has:

  • A selection of baptism, burial and marriage registers for Plymouth on microfiche.
  • Selection of transcripts of Devon and Cornwall parish registers.
  • Marriage and burial indexes for Cornwall arranged by parish.
  • International Genealogical Index (IGI) for Devon and Cornwall 1992 edition on microfiche. Online through Family Search.

A collection of local parish registers can be found in the Plymouth and West Devon Record Office.

Census records

In the UK, censuses have been taken every ten years since 1801 (except for 1941). The first useful one for family historians was taken in 1841 when names were recorded for the first time.

Original census records up to 1911 are available online in all libraries (except Eggbuckland and Estover) through our subscriptions to Ancestry Library Edition and Find My Past.

Census records for 1841 to 1901 are on Microfiche in the History Room.

Street and name directories

Street directories are arranged by street name and property number.

  • Plymouth: 1812 to 1970 (with gaps)
  • Cornwall: 1823 to 1939, various dates
  • Devon: 1720 to 1939, various dates
  • Exeter: 1950 to 1973
  • Torbay: 1946 to 1973
  • BT local telephone directories: 1963 to date (incomplete)
  • BT National telephone directories: 1880 to 1984 through Ancestry Library Edition
  • Local Yellow Pages: 1982 to date

Electoral registers

The current Register of Electors for Plymouth is held in the Central Library.

Historical registers are available on Microfilm, indexed by street and then property number.

We have the following dates:

  • Plymouth Devonport: 1934, 1935, 1938, 1939, 1946, 1952, 1954 to 1965, 1975, 1976, 1978, 1980
  • Plymouth Drake: 1934 to 1939, 1946, 1952, 1954, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1976, 1980, 1981
  • Plymouth Sutton: 1935 to 1937, 1946, 1952, 1954 to 1965, 1969, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1977, 1978

Online newspapers

Access in the library or from home if you have a library card.

19th Century British Newspapers
The archives of influential national and regional newspapers representing different political and cultural segments of the 19th century British society.

Times Digital Archive
The complete digital edition of The Times (London) from 1785 to 1985. Newsbank has The Times archive from 1985 to date.

Newsbank Newspapers
Full text articles from a range of local, national and international newspapers from 1998 to date.

Journals and magazines

  • Cornwall Family History Society Journal: 1985 to date
  • Devon Family Historian: 1977 to date
  • Family Tree: 2010 to date

Local publications

  • Plymouth Civilian War Dead: Roll of Honour 1939 to 1945
  • Plymouth Naval War Memorial: Roll of Honour WW1 and WW2
  • The Visitation of Devon and the Visitation of Cornwall

Other resources

  • Cornwall Protestation Returns
  • Devon taxes: 1581 to 1660
  • Musters of militias in Cornwall, Devon East, Devon North, Devon South, Dorset and Somerset: 1781 to 1782
  • Public Records Office criminal register indexes for Devon (1805 to 1828)
  • Public Records Office criminal register indexes for Cornwall (1805 to 1840)
  • Public Records Office criminal register indexes for Bristol (1817 to 1828)

Historical patents

If you have an inventor in your family, historical patents can be a useful source of information.

Plymouth PATLIB have put together a guide to tracing historical patents.

Useful links