Starting your research    

When carrying out research, preparation is everything. Start with what you know and work backwards.Family history 

Talk to other family members about their memories, especially parents and grandparents who can start you off with names, places, dates and any documents that they might have, they will remember useful snippets of information. Note basic facts such as when and where you, your parents and grandparents were born. You can refer to your notes to verify your research and fill in gaps.

Look for other sources at home: Family Bibles may contain details of births, marriages and deaths. Look on the back of old photographs for names, dates and places. Many people keep certificates, news-cuttings and other mementoes to remind them of significant events. Check family gravestone inscriptions for names and vital dates. Remember, spelling was not standard in the past and variations in the spelling of surnames are common.

Basic Key information needed is:

Names: spelling of surnames and Christian names, look for repeated family names.
Dates: Birth, marriage, deaths and other special events such as emigration.
Place: Vital for searching parish record.

Setting important dates on a timeline, and keeping key facts like names and places in a clear, easy-to-refer-to document or file will really pay off. It is not vital to have all of this detail to begin with, but the better that you are at organising your findings, the easier it will be to find out more information and pinpoint areas to investigate further.

There are lots of places you can go and look. Libraries can be good places to start with most now offer access to the internet at a small charge. Public library computers will give free access to

Since July 1837 all birth, marriage and death records for England and Wales have been kept in a national register rather than at the local parish church. These registers can be viewed online, while family history societies and libraries often have copies to view.

Basic Key Information:

  • Birth Certificate: Shows date, full name, mother and father's name and mother's maiden name, addresses.
  • Marriage Certificate: will tell you the occupation and full name of the bride and groom and their fathers, address of bride and groom and witnesses' names.
  • Death Certificate: Date of death, name, age, address and cause of death, also name of person who registered the death.

Ordering a certificate

To order a certificate online, for a birth, marriage or death in England or Wales, go to phone +44 (0)300 123 1837 (8am to 8pm Monday to Friday. Saturday 9am to 4pm) or write to Certificate Services Section, General Register Office, PO Box 2, Southport PR8 2JD. Certificates cost £9.25 per copy.


A census has been taken every 10 years since 1801, but the first census to record householders' names is the 1841 census. Personal information on census returns is only made public 100 years after it was collected, and the 1911 census is the most recent census available. Censuses can be viewed online, family history societies, National archives and libraries (local censuses only).

Census records provide details such as your ancestors' exact addresses, who they lived with their occupations and ages. Start with the 1911 census and known grandparents and work backwards tracing other ancestors with information found at each stage.

Parish records

Before the civil registration of births, marriages and deaths, baptisms, marriages and burial records where kept by individual parishes. Some start as early as 1538, as decreed by Cromwell. Most parish records can be accessed at the local county records offices with some records now being available online.

These will help extend your family tree and will enable you to discover a forest of ancestors. With these basics you can then start to look at other records such as military and immigration documents. Did they travel abroad? Family history is not just about finding the names and dates but discovering who these people were.

Researching your Horsham District Family History at Horsham Museum

Whether you are related to a queen of England or the humblest of villagers this leaflet's aim is to guide you through the resources that are available and the process for ordering documents to be viewed. Horsham Museum and Art Gallery has a wealth of resources available for researchers on the town and district's history.

The Records we hold:

The Museum has been collecting objects relating to Horsham and its district since 1893, and today holds more than 90,000 artefacts in our main collections. In addition to this we have a large photographic archive from the mid nineteenth century to the present; this includes the Cecil Cramp collection ― a life's work capturing and recording the changing face of Horsham. Also contained in our collection are more than 6,000 documents and manuscripts produced by local organisations, business and individuals. A selection of books published on the locality; and numerous ephemera items from the past 200 years that illustrate various town events.

Our reference library holds an array of books relating to Horsham and its district, these books are available to view during opening hours without an appointment, please ask a member of staff for access.

Your Visit

Catalogues can be viewed in the museum library during normal opening hours: Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm, closed Sundays and Bank Holidays. A selection of these catalogues is available to be viewed online. 

The library is equipped with tables and chairs for your use, and you are welcome to bring notepads and pencils or a laptop if you prefer, but we ask that pens are not used.

Viewing Documents

Every document held by the museum has a unique reference code or accession number. The documents themselves may be a single sheet, a large file, a box containing a bundle of papers or letters or maps and books. Once you have found the reference code for the document you want to look at in the catalogue, you can request the document by using a Document/Object request form which is available from the front reception desk. You can request up to 6 documents at a time but please allow a minimum of 3 working days to view. A staff member will contact you when they are available, setting a time and a date for your visit. Please report to front reception who will contact the relevant staff member.

Viewing Photographs

Catalogues are not currently available at present on the photographs that we hold in our collection. Please complete a Photographic Request Form with as much information as possible on the image that you wish us to find, these are available from front reception. These are hand searched for by our photographic team so please allow a minimum of 5 working days to view. A member of the team will contact you when they are available, setting a time and a date for your visit. Please report to front reception who will contact the relevant staff member.

Copying of documents and photographs

If after viewing the document or photograph you wish for a copy please see the front reception staff who will be happy to order these at a small charge.

Photographs can be copied, if not subject to copyright, at a cost of £5 for an A4 sized image using photographic paper. Please be aware that this can take a number of weeks.

Documents can be copied a curator's discretion, depending on the condition of the document, for a charge of £1 a copy and you will be requested to sign a copyright form. You can request to photograph documents, with the flash disabled, for free. Please advise the staff member dealing with the viewing.

We regret that Museum staff are unable to conduct research on behalf of individuals although the District's Local History Groups may be able to help.

Other useful sites and resources

Sussex Family History Group:p:
Majority of their catalogue is available on line with documents available to view by members at: The Family History Centre and Library, The Keep, Woolards Way, Brighton, BN1 9BP . Contact Steve Selby at or call 01892 654993.

West Sussex Record Office
3 Orchard Street, Chichester, West Sussex, PO19 1DD
Phone: 01243 753602
Fax: 01243 533959

This records office hold a variety of materials including film and video archives, military history, the railway. Anyone may access these documents free of charge. For opening times and information regarding your visit please visit the website.

West Sussex picture achieve is available on line at

Horsham Library, Lower Tanbridge Way, Horsham, RH12 1PJ
Tel: 01403 224350.
Records held are: Census returns: 1841-1901, IGI, Copies of parish registers, trade directories, local news papers and periodicals.

Internet sites charges apply (other sites available)