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.

England & Wales

The following resources will help you identify the names of parishes and their boundaries.

  • The Phillimore atlas and index of parish registers edited by Cecil R. Humphery-Smith.
    This atlas outlines old parishes prior to 1832 and provides the date of the earliest surviving registers for the parish. The atlas includes England, Wales, and Scotland. Phillimore's is also available in the Library through the Ancestry Library Edition database.
  • Look up the parish using the online English jurisdications 1851 map, on the FamilySearch website. Use this mapping system to show the parish maps of the 40 counties of England and then locate the boundaries of various jurisdictions (parishes, counties, civil registration districts, dioceses, deaneries, poor law unions, hundreds, provinces and divisions) as they were in England in 1851.
  • A genealogical atlas of England and Wales contains a reproduction of topographic maps published in London before 1860. Useful for determining the parish of localities.

Access from home

Access in the Library

 Search the Library catalogue

 You can find a large number of parish registers in the Family History & Newspaper room. Search the catalogue using such keywords as the name of the parish or the name of the church i.e. Devon church registers, Glamorgan parish registers or St. Mary's Church Manchester registers.

Nonconformist records

In 1559 the Act of Uniformity required everyone to conform to the Church of England - those who didn't were called Nonconformists. Although Catholics and Jews were Nonconformists, the term was mainly used to represent non Anglican Protestants, including Quakers, Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists and Congregationalists. Many Nonconformist churches never kept records, to avoid persecution. For detailed information on the history of Nonconformists please go to the FamilySearch wiki pages for England and Wales.

In the 19th century, the General Register Office collected large numbers of Nonconformist registers. They are now housed in the National Archives UK but can be accessed via the BMD Registers website.

Nonconformist records - access from home

 Nonconformist records - access in the Library

Search the Library catalogue

You can find several Nonconformist parish registers in the Family History & Newspaper room. Search the catalogue using such keywords as the name of the county, parish or church i.e. Cambridgeshire Nonconformist registers or Bedfordshire Methodist registers.

Further information


River Stour and weaver's cottages, Canterbury [England],

River Stour and weaver's cottages, Canterbury [England] H96.46/41