Researching your family history

Tracing family history is fascinating and rewarding, but can also be time consuming and complicated. Brighton & Hove City Council has a wealth of information that can assist you if you are researching your ancestors and they were born, died or married in Brighton and Hove. While we cannot always provide the answers it is our aim to help you as much as possible. Below are the answers to some frequently asked questions.

Where do I start?

Start by gathering as much information as you can from relatives including names, dates, addresses, ancestor's religions; documents such as wills, family bibles, newspaper cuttings, birth, death and marriage certificates. Draw up a basic family tree to give you an idea of the gaps that you will need to fill. Then work backwards using information known already about relatives.

For example, if you know your Grandmother's date and place of birth you can apply for her birth certificate which will tell you her parents full names, including her mother's maiden surname. Your next step would be to search for her parents' marriage certificate which you should find through searching the family records indexes held at The Keep or the National Archives may be able to help you.

How far do the Register Office's records go back?

Civil registration of births, deaths and marriages started on 1 July 1837 and so our records go back to then (please note we only hold records for the district of Brighton & Hove). Before July 1837, the Churches recorded baptisms, burials and marriages. More information on where to find these records (for Brighton, Hove and East Sussex) is held at The Keep . Registers of burials and cremations in Brighton & Hove are held at Woodvale in Brighton.

We do not hold records of divorces. To apply for those you would either need to contact the court where the divorce was granted or The Divorce Registry in London.

Where can I get help tracing my family history?

There are many groups and organisations specialising in family history or genealogy that should be able to help. You could try searching on the internet, or visit your local library. There are many books and online resources like genealogy websites and newspaper archives available to help you.

What information do I need to obtain an old birth, marriage, civil partnership or death certificate?

if the birth, marriage or death happened in Brighton & Hove you will need to be able to identify the entry with the year and the name(s) of the person(s).
If you are applying for a civil partnership certificate you must also identify the address of the partners at the time of the registration.

If you are unsure of the year or the district, you will need to search the Family Records Indexes. These are held in Brighton, and other locations, including reference libraries, family history centres and record offices around the UK, and also in Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

How can I trace a long lost relative or friend?

We do not keep updated records of a persons whereabouts. You could try contacting the electoral register in the district covering the persons last known address, or telephone directory, the Salvation Army or the local newspaper.

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