Researching your ancestors from Great Britain and Ireland

A guide to researching your ancestors in England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, using resources at State Library Victoria.


Wooden buildings with steep gabled roofs, grave stones on right [Historic buildings, England],

Wooden buildings with steep gabled roofs, grave stones on right [Historic buildings, England], H86.108/132


Prior to the 19th century people were usually buried in parish churchyards. By the early 1800s many churchyards were becoming full and were considered to be a health hazard, so separate cemeteries were established. Very few early memorials to the dead have survived from before the late 1700s and many surviving stone memorials have been worn away by weather and pollution.

Cemeteries records usually include details of burials, cremations, grave and plot books. The information recorded on a gravestone is described as a monumental or memorial inscription and may iinclude such information as name, relatives, birth/death dates, occupation and birthplace.

To find out where an individual was buried, look for a church, city, or public cemetery near the place where they lived or died. You can find clues to burial places in church records, death certificates or family histories. If the cemetery is still in use, the register may still be held at the cemetery office, otherwise try the local archives or county record office for the area you are researching. Burial registers may also be held by the relevant parish church, or may have been relocated to the church diocese archives.

Records available from home

  • GENUKI: Check the GENUKI pages for your county of interest and click on the relevant links to find cemeteries, church records and churches.
  • is a free online library of cemetery records from thousands of cemeteries across the world.
  • Go to the Family History Library Catalog and do a Place Search to find out what records have been indexed. You can view records at one of the Australian LDS Family History Centres.
  • Many family history societies have transcribed and published collections of burial registers and monumental inscriptions from their area. Search the internet to see if there is a Family History society website for the county you are researching. Then browse the site to see if indexes and publications are available.

Records available in the library

  • Ancestry logo
    Ancestry Library Edition
    • Access only at the Library
    Includes a number of county and city burial registers and indexes to monumental inscriptions.