Family history

Exploring your family history can be a fascinating and rewarding experience, but it can be difficult to know where to start. We have a range of information and resources to help you.

To get started, follow these steps:

Note down all the dates and events you are certain of concerning your immediate family. Ask other members of your family what they know, but remember it is always best to check information by consulting official records, so you have concrete proof to back up memories!

Family photos are a great way to get people talking, so do ask relatives to see these. It is best to start with yourself and work backwards.

For more tips on how to start your search visit the BBC website or the National Archives website.

Once you've gathered all the information your family can offer, it's time to plan the rest of your research.

The Kent History and Library Centre has a range of records which will help, such as:

Use the archive catalogue to look up the finding numbers for the documents you'd like to see. You can then order documents so they're ready for when you arrive or order digital copies if you can't make it to the centre. Remember to write down accurately the references to any documents you find that might be relevant.

We also have a range of online resources you can use, check the family history section of our online reference library or use our list of family history websites.

When you've gathered all the information you can at home, it's time to visit the Kent History and Library Centre or your library's local history section to start filling in any gaps in your research.

It's important to plan your visit:

  • Contact the archive centre in advance. Check the centre you're planning to visit holds the records you want to see and confirm that the records are available for you to view immediately. Speak to staff about booking any additional resources you may need (for example a desk, computer or microfilm reader).
  • Bring some identification. When you visit you will need to show some identification, proving your name, address and signature. If you have a County Archives Research Network card or a Kent Library card you can show those.
  • Talk to staff when you arrive at the centre so they are aware of what you are trying to find out and to ask them for advice.