Local and family history

Coronavirus (COVID-19): change to service

Following advice from the government regarding the  Coronavirus (COVID-19) we have started reopening our libraries, see the latest Library service information

See further information about changes to services

If you are researching your family tree, we can help you. We have books so you can find out how to get started, but we also give you free access to Ancestry – a site for which you would normally have to pay. If your ancestors lived in Poole, you should check out the Local History Centre.


Temporary home access to ancestry

While libraries are closed, library members can access Ancestry Online from home. To do this, go to the Libraries West homepage and login with your library card. The Ancestry link will then appear, and you can search through thousands of records at home.

We also offer the British Newspaper Archive(in libraries only) - this is a growing archive of regional newspapers.

Which website to use

You will at some stage need to use various websites to find the information you need. Ancestry and Findmypast do not cover the same things:

  • Ancestry covers the UK and Ireland, much of Europe, USA, Canada, and Australia and New Zealand, and has the 1911 census
  • Findmypast is strictly the UK, and also has the 1911 census
  • Findmypast has burial records, but Ancestry does not

Use Ancestry if you are researching immigration into the UK, but use Findmypast if you are researching people who left the UK (passenger lists).

Each site has a number of additional resources which are unique to that site. If you are not sure, visit the sites or use a search engine to check, for example "World War One Ancestry".

1911 census

The 1911 Census for England and Wales is now fully available in Ancestry. It also includes the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. With the full entry you can see the original handwritten documents (one per household) in colour filled in by the head of the household - so you may well see your ancestor's handwriting. See the Ancestry.co.uk blogfor the latest news.

You can also view the complete 1911 censusfor free at seven locations in the UK. The nearest of these to Poole is the Devon Record Office. You can search the 1911 census site for free anywhere, but you have to pay for detailed information, for example through  Findmypast.

To access the information through the Findmypast site, you need to purchase one or more Findmypastvouchers (see Pay-per-view vouchers below). These cost £5 for 40 units (a full facsimile page in full colour costs 30 units, a transcription 10 units). If you use the Genes Reunited site, you will need to purchase credits online through their site.

It has also been integrated into other sites. To find out more, go to  Findmypast or Genes Reunited.

Free information on the internet

You should start by using the free resources that are available, such as Familysearch(which includes free access to the 1881 UK census), or FreeBMD for births, marriages and deaths. A certain amount of census information is available for free on FreeCEN, but you should check the FreeCEN statistics pagefirst as this is still a work in progress. FreeREG is similar but covers parish registers.

There is a wealth of useful information on the National Archivesand BBC sites.

Pay-per-view vouchers

Ancestry vouchers are no longer available. If you wish to use Ancestry.co.uk, you must sign up for a monthly or annual membership, or for pay-as-you-go you must purchase credits online. You can find details on this page. If you have Scottish ancestors you can purchase vouchers through the Scotland's people website.

Poole History Centre

For detailed research, the Poole History Centre(in a separate building at the Quay) has an extensive archive, and expert staff who can help you find out what you need.

Other ways of finding out about family history

You can borrow books from your local library to find out how to search. To see what we have, look at our catalogue. You can also visit the library to browse through Family History magazines (check with your local library what they have).

Poole Register Officecan supply local birth, marriage and death certificates.

If your ancestors lived locally you should use the resources of the Dorset Family History Societyand the Somerset and Dorset Family History Society.

Page last updated: 17 July 2020
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