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Family history

We can help you with your family history research whether you're a beginner or an experienced researcher.

You should try to gather as much information as possible. Use what you already know and talk to relatives.

All libraries provide free access to Ancestry Library Edition and Find My Past.

Unless otherwise stated the following resources are held in 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'll 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 from 1837 to 2022
  • Marriages from 1837 to 2021
  • Deaths from 1837 to 2022
  • Births, Marriages and Deaths abroad/overseas from 1966 to 2021
  • Civil partnerships from 2005 to 2022
  • Adoptions from 1927 to 2021

A collection of local parish registers can be found at The Box and online at Find My Past.

You can buy copies of Plymouth birth, death or marriage certificates online

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 1921 are available online in all libraries through our subscriptions to Ancestry Library Edition and Find My Past.

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
  • BT National telephone directories: 1880 to 1984 through Ancestry Library Edition.

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.

  • 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.

Local publications

The Visitation of Devon and the Visitation of Cornwall.

Other resources

  • Cornwall Protestation Returns
  • Devon taxes: 1581 to 1660