Bolton Library and Museum Services

Tips for researching family trees

A quick list of pointers to help you start researching your family tree with Bolton Archives.

Making a start

First - read all about it!  Many books and guides for beginners have been published and a good selection of these can be borrowed from the Library.

Other books on the subject are available for reference in the Bolton History Centre - just come in and ask.

One step at a time

In order to trace your family back through the ages, you will need to start with yourself and work back, one step at a time, to your parents, grandparents and so on through the generations. Decide which 'line' (your father's or your mother's) you are going to concentrate on first.

Ask the family

Other members of your family, particularly the older ones, may have a lot of useful information and know things which you do not or have forgotten. They may also have old birth, marriage and death certificates which they will lend you or let you look at.

If you are very lucky, somebody in the family could have an old family bible with lots of names and dates in it.


Birth, marriage and death certificates are vital for family research.  They contain a great deal of information, such as names, dates, addresses, ages and occupations, which you will need. The more that you can get hold of, the easier your task will be.

If there aren't any 'in the family', you can obtain copies (from 1837 to the present day) from either the local registrar of births, marriages an deaths, or from the General Register Office (use useful links at the bottom of this page to access the website).

The Census

According to the National Archives web site "Census records are invaluable in helping you find your ancestors. Discover who was living at the same address as your ancestor and start building your family tree." Access the Census online here.

Local and national records

If your family's roots are in the Bolton area (including Blackrod, Farnworth, Horwich, Kearsley, Little Lever, Turton and Westhoughton), the Archive and Local Studies Unit will be able to provide you with a great deal of information, particularly if you have been able to trace your family back to about 1900 through certificates.

A full list of indexes relating to Family History research for the Bolton area can be found in the Archives indexes section.

If your family are not from the Bolton area, we have details of other libraries and record offices throughout the country where you will be able to find information. Ask for details in the Bolton History Centre or at the Central Library information desk.

Family history societies

Most areas have active family history societies, where you can meet people with a similar interest, obtain advice and information and discuss common problems.  A useful list of addresses of local and national groups and organisations of use to Family historians.