Tips for beginners - tracing your family tree in Hull
It’s easy to trace your family tree. Once you start looking, you will be amazed to find that so many records exist about your ancestors. The main problem is knowing where to start, because these records are not all kept conveniently together in one place. Records of the people of Hull can be found at -
- Hull History Centre, Worship Street
- Central Library, Albion Street
- Crematorium, Chanterlands Avenue
- East Riding Archives in Beverley
- National Archives at Kew
You’ll probably end up contacting people in all of these places. Each of them will be able to supply you with leaflets about their own particular records, their opening hours, their charges. But where do you begin?
Step 1 – talk to your grandparents
There’s no point spending hours going through old records if your gran or grandad can tell you it all anyway. Ask for names, dates, places and photographs and make notes. If they've got copies of old certificates make photocopies. Draw up a family tree.
Then, after you’ve talked to your elderly relatives, you’re ready to start collecting...
Step 2 – birth, marriage and death certificates
The government started keeping records of these 'vital events' in 1837, and you can buy a copy of any certificate from the register office where it was originally issued. So start filling in the gaps in your family tree. For example: grandad’s birth certificate will detail his parents, great-grandma’s marriage certificate will give her age and details about her father, and so on.
But what if you don’t know where or when these things happened? Easy – there is an index that lists all births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales from 1837 up to the present. It’s called the General Register Office (GRO) Index and copies are available on microfiche at most large public libraries. A full set is available at Hull History Centre and it’s also available on the internet.
Visit the DirectGov website for more information on the General Register Office (link opens in a new window)
Hull registration service at The Wilson Centre can supply you with copies of most of the certificates that were originally issued in the Hull or Sculcoates Districts.
Find out more about requesting copies of birth, death or marriage certificates
To make it even easier, you can view most of the indexes for the Hull and Sculcoates areas online at Yorkshire BMD so you can order many of the certificates you need without even leaving home.
Visit Yorkshire BMD (link opens in a new window)
Step 3 – the census
A census is taken every 10 years and the records are a goldmine for family historians – they give the age, place of birth, occupation and address for everyone in each household on census day. The only problem is that the details are kept secret for approximately 100 years, so you’ll only be able to look at census returns from 1911 backwards.
The census records for England and Wales, 1841 to 1901, have now been indexed by surname on the internet and the website can be accessed free of charge at most public libraries or visit it below
Visit Ancestry.co.uk (link opens in a new window)
Hull Local Studies Library at Hull History Centre has a complete set of the records for the Hull and Sculcoates District which you can search on microfilm, though only some are indexed by name (1851, 1861, 1881, 1891 - there are street indexes for all years).
The 1911 census is available on the internet but is not yet available on microfilm. Charges apply for the census site but vouchers can be purchased at most libraries.
Visit 1911census.co.uk (link opens in a new window)
Step 4 - burials
Find out where your ancestors were buried. There may be a headstone that can be photographed, but even if there’s no stone there will certainly be an entry in a burial register somewhere. Tracking down the right register can take a little detective work since there were over 50 burial grounds inside the city boundary.
Hull Corporation opened its first public ground in 1861 and now has four large municipal cemeteries (West, East, North and Hedon Road). The original records for these can be viewed at Chanterlands Avenue Crematorium, where the records of cremations in Hull from 1901 are also kept. Copies of these municipal burial registers are also held (on microfilm) at city archives.
Then there are the city’s churchyards – some still open, some long closed. Most of their records are housed in Beverley, with the East Riding Archives Service. And don’t forget the privately-owned General Cemetery, in Spring Bank West (burials 1847-1972) - those records are now at city archives.
Monumental inscriptions (transcripts of church yard headstones) are available for Hull and the East Riding of Yorkshire in a series produced by the East Yorkshire Family History Society. They are arranged by place for villages and by church for Hull and are available to buy from the Society or for reference use in the Hull local studies library.
Step 5 - church records
Sooner or later your research will take you back before 1837, so you’ll no longer be able to buy copies of birth, marriage or death certificates. So what next? The answer is parish registers – records of baptism, marriage and burial. These began to be kept back in the 16th century and of course still continue today.
Your census research will probably have given you a year and a place of birth for your earliest ancestor, so you’ll need to check the baptism registers for local parish churches around that date. Hull’s two main Church of England parish churches were Holy Trinity and St Mary’s Lowgate but there were many others in the suburbs plus literally dozens of non-conformists chapels – so your detective skills may be needed.
You’ll need to visit the East Riding Archives in Beverley to see the originals of most of these records but thanks to the Mormon Church there is a short-cut – the International Genealogical Index (IGI).
Step 6 – The Mormons
The members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are all genealogists – they trace their ancestors so that they can be brought into membership of the church. The Church (whose headquarters are in Salt Lake City, USA) spends millions of dollars compiling lists and indexes and most are available to the general public. The most useful list is the IGI which contains millions of baptism and marriage references, mostly taken from pre-1875 church registers.
Visit the Family Search website for more information (link opens in a new window)
Step 7 - computers
Computers are a useful tool for family historians – they provide the perfect way of keeping your notes in order and for producing your own professional-looking charts and pedigrees. There are many programmes on the market, like Brothers’ Keeper (for data entry and reports) and Family Tree Maker (for producing charts) among others.
Step 8 – join your local family history society
Join the local family history society (FHS) – the East Yorkshire FHS – to meet like-minded people, and maybe long-lost cousins. The society has around 1500 members and holds monthly meetings in Hull (as well as in Beverley and Scarborough). Members can get involved in all sorts of useful projects, such as recording headstone inscriptions, or typing up indexes.
Steps 9, 10, 11, 12…
You’ve only just begun. There are old newspapers, wills, trade directories, crew lists, army records, electoral registers and much much more. Genealogy can be a very rewarding and satisfying hobby. The only qualification you need is patience but, be warned, tracing your family tree is highly addictive!