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Learn more about how to research family history

Published April 21, 2022 9.04am


People looking to learn more about how to research their family history can do so in online sessions which are taking place throughout next month.

Watson family and nurse, c. 1909. Durham County Record Office ref D/WN 15/6(2).

Children from the Watson family with their nurse, c. 1909. Courtesy of Durham County Record Office ref D/WN 15/6(2)

Our Durham County Record Office (DCRO) is once again offering its online family history course aimed at people who would like an introduction to, or refresher in, getting started in family history research. 

The course will explore various sources which family historians use and show how archives held at the record office can help in their search.  

People can sign up to any or all of the talks, with a choice of morning or evening sessions. 

Civil registration

Sessions on civil registration - the system of birth, marriage and death certificates that started in 1837 - run from 10.00am to 11.00am and 6.00pm to 7.00pm on Tuesday 3 May.

The census

Talks on the census will be held from 10.00am to 11.00am and 6.00pm to 7.00pm on Tuesday 10 May. Find out how to access the census and how to understand the returns themselves, with advice on uncovering ancestors who may be missing or hard to find.

Parish registers

People can also find out more about using parish registers in their research on Tuesday 17 May, with sessions taking place from 10.00am to 11.00am and 6.00pm to 7.00pm.

Parish registers are Church of England records of baptisms, marriages and burials going back, in some cases, to the 1530s. The talk will cover the information they contain, how they change over time and how to access them.

Branching Out

DCRO is also running talks for people with more experience as part of its regular Branching Out programme. This is a series of monthly talks on a particular family history topic.

Domestic servants will be the focus of talks on Thursday 28 April, while housing from the nineteenth century onwards will be the topic on Thursday 12 May. On both dates sessions run from 10.00am to 11.00am and 6.00pm to 7.00pm.

Each session costs £5. 

Help from experts

Cllr Elizabeth Scott, our Cabinet member for economy and partnerships, said: "These sessions provide the ideal opportunity for anyone looking to take the first steps towards researching their family history or, in the case of the Branching Out talk, help those with some experience to further their knowledge. 

"Record office staff are experts in this area and will be able to help those taking part every step of the way, so if you are interested please go online and sign up to find out more."

To book a place for any of the online talks, which will all be held on Zoom, visit Durham County Record Office: online booking

Booking in advance is essential in order to receive the joining link. Organisers advise early booking as there are limited places available.

DCRO will be a key part of the new history centre set in the restored Grade II listed Mount Oswald, which is currently under construction. The centre is due to open to the public in 2023 and will bring into one central location the story of the history and heritage of County Durham, as told through historic records, photographs and objects. 

As home to registration services, the county record office, local studies collections, the historic environment record and Durham Light Infantry Collection, it will be a place not just to uncover history but to make your own.  

The diverse history and heritage of County Durham is integral to the area's bid to be named UK City of Culture 2025. The county has made the final four in the selection process for the honour, with the winner due to be revealed in May.

For more information and updates on the progress of the new history centre visit our The Story at Mount Oswald  web page.