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Resources for English and Welsh Genealogy

Posted by Sean Daly on Apr 14, 2023
The red & white Tudor rose with the Welsh daffodil

Do you have ancestors in England or Wales? The former Roman province of Britannia much later became the former British Empire, with its colonizers around the globe. And while every region in England has kept specific cultural traditions, the Welsh have maintained their identity and indeed their language to this day. Learn about resources to help you find your forbears!

Tracing your ancestors in England or Wales can seem daunting, in particular from outside the United Kingdom. We have already written about resources for genealogy in Ireland, Scotland, and Australia; this time, we will provide you with an updated, curated list of England and Wales resources. We’ll start with a little bit of historical context.

England & Wales?

First of all, why cover these two countries together? There are several reasons for this. First of all, the integration of Wales into English administration happened relatively early, starting in the 15th century with King Henry VIII. This means the Welsh and English legal systems and record keeping are very similar — you will find many UK resources which are common to England and Wales. Although there is a well-defined border between the nations which has scarcely changed over a millenium, their close proximity has meant ongoing exchange since the Anglo-Welsh conflicts ended at the dawn of the Tudor dynasty.

By 1863, when this map was made, the Industrial revolution was well underway and railroads crisscrossed the counties. New York Public Library 1510830

An extremely brief history of England

England has had influences which were not as keenly felt in Wales, Scotland, and Ireland: Roman civilization and administration, the invasions of the Germanic peoples (Angles, Saxons), the Northmen (Jutes, Danes, Vikings) and their French-speaking descendents from Normandy who with the Angevins became the Plantagenets. The Hundred Years’ War and the Wars of the Roses brought the end of the Plantagenets and ushered in the age of the Tudors, who worked to centralize power in England and build up its navy. The fortuitous defeat of the Invincible Armada, The English Reformation, the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, the Stuart Restoration, England’s first colonies preceded the creation of Great Britain and the United Kingdom. In 1805, Nelson’s great victory at Trafalgar over the French and Spanish fleets opened the seas to Britain’s Royal Navy and empire.

Admiral Horatio Nelson famously signalled at Trafalgar: “England expects that every man will do his duty”. Some 600 of those men were Welshmen! 1799 portrait by Lemuel Francis Abbott


A key particularity of English and Welsh genealogy is Nonconformism, a result of the English Reformation. From the mid-17th through the late 19th centuries, Protestants in England who did not adhere to the Church of England (Anglicans) were deemed Nonconformists: Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Unitarians, Calvinists, Methodists, Baptists, Plymouth Brethren, Puritans, and Quakers. The term was even sometimes used for anyone not in the “established church”, not just Protestants, so even Roman Catholics and Jews too. Nonconformists faced discrimination in public life. In English and Welsh genealogy, it’s important to understand that parish records refer first and foremost to Anglican records, copies of which (sometimes with additional information) were transmitted to bishops. Religious records of the assorted denominations exist, but are partial and fragmented and found mostly in the industrial centers of England and throughout Wales. Some families baptized children both in the established church, and at a nearby Nonconformist chapel. The censuses of 1841 and 1851 showed that nearly half of churchgoers were Nonconformists, or members of “free churches”. So keep an open mind about the religious affiliation of your ancestors, there may be surprises in store, and unexpected records may be available!

Civil registration and censuses

In 1837, birth, marriage and death registration began in England and Wales. And by 1841, the ten-year censuses begun decades earlier became truly useful for genealogy with the name of every household member recorded. Be aware however that ages over 15 were often rounded down to the previous multiple of five. In 1851, full birth locations were recorded. The latest full census available is from 1921. The 1931 census was lost in a fire (except Scotland) and the 1941 census was cancelled; the substitute for these was the 1939 Register, done at the outbreak of WWII. FamilySearch has a recap of which censuses are available on which sites; see also the National Archives page.

This bilingual 1841 poster enticed people to embark at Cardigan for Liverpool and thence to North America. Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru – The National Library of Wales

Resources at Geneanet

There are English and Welsh collections available at Geneanet, but they are not directly accessible through country pages or portals; our collections are associated with counties or regions of the United Kingdom (see our UK search page here). Moreover, for technical reasons, the UK regions we use are the 1975-1996 regions, not the council areas in use since (FamilySearch has an overview of counties’ border changes). Most of our holdings about England and Wales are digitized books in our Genealogy Library for Premium members, and volunteer contributions (which are always free) such as our Save our Graves project. If your ancestor fell in World War I in France or Belgium and is buried in Europe, it’s possible a Geneanet volunteer has photographed his grave or memorial.

Geneanet volunteer cdejaigher uploaded photos of the Chili Trench Cemetery in Gavrelle northeast of Arras, including this one of Cpl A.T. Willmott of the Royal Fusiliers who fell in 1917. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission listings are indexed at Geneanet.

English and Welsh genealogy resources

  • Geneanet’s parent company has a very strong presence in the UK and if you are trying to find long-lost cousins through genealogy or genetic genealogy (DNA), Ancestry is the top choice. Start with the portals for England and Wales. New collections are added all the time; just added: “UK, Criminal Records, 1780-1871”.
  • FamilySearch. This free site run by the LDS church is a treasure trove of record collections from around the world. See the lists of parishes in England and Wales with dates of their surviving registers, as well as maps of parish boundaries. The LDS church runs FamilySearch library centers; these are friendly places for any genealogist, with computers and open access to a number of paid subscription sites including Ancestry, Geneanet Premium, and Findmypast.
  • General Register Office. The GRO holds records of births, deaths, marriages, civil partnerships, stillbirths and adoptions in England and Wales.
  • Search Local Archives. This UK government portal facilitates locating local councils in England and Wales which hold archives.
  • GENUKI. Focused on UK and Ireland genealogy, this volunteer-driven site has many resources and points to many others.
  • Free UK Genealogy. This is the portal of the FreeBMD, FreeCEN, and FreeREG projects, volunteer-driven projects focused on vital records, census records, and parish registers. Work is ongoing, so your people may not be indexed. But if they have, this can be an invaluable resource.
  • BMDRegisters. This site has some Nonconformist parish records available on a pay-per-page basis.
  • Federation of Family History Societies. Local knowledge can never be underestimated. The FFHS has been around for decades and can connect you to any of over 180 societies. Keep in mind that these days, many local societies prefer using Facebook pages, if you are on that platform.
  • UKBMD. This site can orient you to thousands of online transcriptions of vital records and censuses.
  • FindMyPast. This paid subscription site has some Roman Catholic parish records unavailable elsewhere, as well as a rather pricey pay-per-page access to the UK’s 1921 census of England and Wales (remember, the census can be viewed for free at Kew). FMP is also a partner of the British Library for the paid subscription site British Newspaper Archive.
  • Guild of One-Name Studies. This site is for you if your surname is among the existing projects. Remember, standardized spelling is a very recent development, in the past century or so — keep an eye out for variants!
  • GenGuide. This site is an online guide to reference sources and research material.
  • Historic England Archives. This official body has a fabulous collection of over a million records pertaining to buildings and archaeological sites.
  • Archives Hub. This site can help you locate sources and records held at over 380 institutions throughout the UK: universities, councils, specialist archives…
  • UK ProbateSearch. This site, currently in beta, has a unified search function for England and Wales — try it!
  • The Crew List Index Project. Seafarers can be notoriously difficult to research. This nonprofit initiative focuses on records of British merchant seafarers of the late 19th and early 20th century.
  • A Vision of Britain Through Time. This site can help you find resources such as maps for places throughout the UK. There are population statistics and election results too.
  • London Gazette. The Gazette publishes many notices of public interest and offers a rich archive; see their guide.
  • Old Bailey Online. This site lets you search nearly 200,000 criminal trials at London’s central criminal court.
  • London Lives. This project offers primary sources about ordinary people in London from the 18th and 19th centuries.
  • British History Online. This subscription site offers nearly 1300 volumes and other resources concerning the British Isles.
  • Welsh Coal Mines. If your ancestor was a miner, you’ll want to visit this site which has information about mines, mining disasters, and an active forum. The Poems and Stories collection offers a glimpse into the miners’ world.
  • Morwyr Cymru — Welsh Mariners. This site, built up over 20 years by Dr. Reginald Davies, has compiled databases of Welsh sailors, both merchantmen and Royal Navy sailors.
  • Swansea Mariners. This older site has over 108,000 records of merchant seamen on Swansea registered ships.

Did we miss any resources? Please let us know in the comments! And don’t hesitate to ask for help in our forums where we have a United Kingdom section. Geneanet members are helpful and questions are monitored by support!


PS:- I have a very interesting family tree going back to the Vikings and many Kings. I am happy to share.
(Frayling, Stapleton, de Beaumont) tribalpages
I am 85 years old and techno illiterate so don’t know how to upload to Geneanet! I am happy to share. David

Answer from Geneanet: If your tree is already in software or on a platform, you can export a GEDCOM format file which can be uploaded to Geneanet. Our help pages have more information.

Trying to trace my Frayling (Fraylyng/Frijling) Protestant family prior to abt 1496 in Wiltshire we think they might have been Huguenots or Waloons

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