Many of you will already know that the Society of Genealogists house the largest genealogical library in the UK but did you know that the Society is also the national repository for family history documents and records?

The Society’s ‘Special’, ‘Document’ and ‘Topographical’ collections contain many fascinating documents that display the UK’s diverse and rich cultural heritage. We have been collecting family history documents since 1911, long before the arrival of local record offices, which means we often have documents that you would not expect to find here at the Society.

Our collections relate to over 44,000 surnames. Many documents are originals and date as far back as the 15th century.

Records that might otherwise have been destroyed are now safely housed within the Society’s archives. Records such as the Bank of England will extracts that contain details from the wills of Charles Dickens, Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington. Other records include public services and company staff records. 

An example of the typical documents you might find within our collections are marriage settlements, deeds, certificates, wills, photographs, newspaper clippings, probates, family coat of arms, letters and many other unusual one off documents. Not only are these documents and photographs often beautiful to look at, they also provide us with invaluable information that gives us tremendous insight as to what life must have been like for our ancestors.

There is nothing more exciting for a family historian than to find a document belonging or relating to one of their ancestors and with our extensive and ever growing collections, many more people are making these discoveries.

You can search our collections for relevant documents by coming into the Society and using our catalogues. Due to the size of our ever growing collections, most documents are not listed online but this is something we are working on. In order to ensure our wonderful collections are around for many more generations to enjoy, the Society is raising the funds needed to conserve its collections by digitisation. This will mean that anyone in the world can access these precious documents without running the risk of damaging them. Please click here if you would like to help us make these crucial improvements.