Local history

1. Research guides

To help with your research we have produced several research guides. They are focused on the topics on which we receive the most enquiries from our readers.


Research guides

The following guides are available to download

General reference works on many research topics are available from our Local Studies Library if you are interested in taking your work further.

2. Family history

Getting started

Your older relatives will have a fund of family memories going back in time and they may have valuable family papers, photographs, birth certificates or even a family bible.

Ask where their parents were buried and visit the cemeteries.  You will be amazed at the amount of information you can collect in this way.  Make a simple family tree with yourself at the bottom and the earliest generation known at the top and bring it with you when you first use our services. There are a number of books available which will assist you in this, including. 

  • Mark Herber, Ancestral Trails
  • Peter Christian, The Genealogist's Internet
  • Amanda Bevan, Tracing your Ancestors in The National Archives



Buckinghamshire Archives subscribes to Ancestry.com and access to their databases are available here and at any Buckinghamshire library. 

The International Genealogical Index (IGI)

A county by county name index to all British parish registers that have been microfilmed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. This is now included in Family Search, a CD-ROM or internet database of over 400 million records of events from around the world.

Parish registers

We have films of all Buckinghamshire parish registers, bishop's transcripts and pre-1837 nonconformist registers. We also have holds transcripts of many Buckinghamshire parish registers. Buckingham, Chesham and High Wycombe libraries also hold films for parishes in their immediate area. 

Church of England register list
Nonconformist churches register list

General Register Office index of births, marriages and deaths

Since July 1837, all births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales should have been recorded at the General Register Office (GRO). We have microfiche copies of the Indexes for the period 1837-2004. An entry here is often proof enough a family event took place at a particular time, but a full certificate can be ordered from the General Register Office or from local registrars using the reference number in the index.

Census returns

The census is a useful snapshot of the population on a particular night in history.  We have CDs and microform versions of all Buckinghamshire censuses, 1841-1901.  Buckingham, Chesham and High Wycombe libraries also have returns for their immediate areas. 

A useful guide to census returns is Lumas, S, Making Sense of the Census, HMSO, 1997.

National Probate Index

All wills and administrations proved in England and Wales from 1858-1943 should be listed in the National Probate Index.  We have microfiche of the annual printed indexes.  These provide the deceased's name, occupation, address, date and place of death, the names of executors and the value of the estate.


Local newspapers provide an account of the times in which our ancestors lived.  There are reports of town meetings, legal proceedings and day to day occurrences as well as adverts for property sales. The obituaries are of special value to the family historian.  We have bound copies or microfilms of many local Aylesbury newspapers. High Wycombe Local Studies Library holds films of the Bucks Free Press, Buckingham Library holds films of the Buckingham Advertiser and Chesham Library holds films of the Bucks Examiner.  

Trade directories

Firms like Pigot and Co's and Kelly's produced county directories from the beginning of the 19th century.  We hold most editions covering Buckinghamshire. These directories help you to trace the movements of individual families and are invaluable in giving a precise address in the larger towns where a search through the census returns would otherwise be impracticable. The earliest directory available was published in 1792.  We have indexed some information from Buckinghamshire Trade Directories.

3. House history

Researching the history of your house can be a fascinating and rewarding exercise, but it is only fair to add that - contrary to the impression given in some handbooks - it can be a surprisingly difficult one and the results are frequently disappointing. First, the survival and accessibility of many kinds of records cannot be guaranteed. Secondly, problems of identification can prevent effective use of such potential sources as are available. House names are not necessarily helpful; some farm names, go back to medieval times, especially in areas of dispersed settlement such as the Chilterns, but more often existing house names are of recent origin and may have altered more than once. Again, house numbers are not found in rural areas or in small towns before the late nineteenth century.

Despite these difficulties it is often possible to find out at least something new about your house. In any case it is well worth while to explore the possibilities.

Sources available for house history

  • Start by looking at printed books and gather an idea of your local area, and how old your house might be.  If you have your own title deeds, this will also help.
  • Use maps to see when your house was there and when it wasn't.  There are many different types of map that can help with this, including modern Ordnance Survey maps, and older tithe apportionments, inclosure maps, and estate maps, amongst others.
  • If your house was included on one of the many large estates in Buckinghamshire (such as Shardeloes at Amersham or West Wycombe Park, for example), then there may be records that exist from those estates that can show who lived there and how much rent they paid, and so on.
  • Over time, property has been subject to different types of taxation.  The records of these different taxes have sometimes not survived, but there may be information about window, hearth or land tax about your property as well as more modern rate books.
  • There are many different types of miscellaneous records that could help with researching houses, including things like wills, inventories, photographs, newspapers, sale catalogues, records of estate agents and fire insurance.  All or none of these may be useful in your research.
  • For more specialised houses, such as public houses or former places of worship, there may be other sources such as registers of licensed victuallers or church records respectively that may be of use.

4. Local history

The information set out below provides an introduction to some of the principal sources for local history held here.  Please check the catalogues for complete references, our staff will be pleased to help.

Printed and reference sources

There are a number of local history books on Buckinghamshire as a whole and on towns, villages and parishes more specifically.  For topographical and historical information on all towns and parishes in the county, see:

  • Victoria County History (1903-27) 4 volumes. and index
  • G. Lipscomb, History and Antiquities of the County of Buckingham (1847) 4 volumes
  • J.J. Sheahan, History and Topography of Buckinghamshire (1862).

Additional resources

Trade Directories for the county (1792-1939)

These provide giving descriptions of towns and parishes in Buckinghamshire and details of local institutions, gentry and trades people.  There are also some street directories of larger towns, 1945-1974.

Publications of the Buckinghamshire Record Society

These include:

  • Vol. 8:  Lay Subsidy Roll, 1524
  • Vol. 17: Certificate of Musters, 1522
  • Vol. 21: Contributions for Ireland, 1642
  • Vol. 22: Posse Comitatus, 1798
  • Vol. 27: Census of Religious Worship, 1851
  • Vol. 28: Dissent and Parish Life, 1669-1712.


These include:

  • Fire Insurance Records
  • National Probate Index, 1858-1943 (available in Local Studies only.)
  • Alumni of Oxford (1751-1886) and Cambridge (earliest times to 1900)

Other sources

  • Records of Buckinghamshire - the journal of the Buckinghamshire Archaeological Society
  • Dept. of the Environment: Buildings of Special Architectural & Historic Interest, c.1973-1985. Schedules of Listed Buildings, with descriptions, arranged by District
  • N. Pevsner & E. Williamson, The Buildings of England: Buckinghamshire (1994)
  • Reports of the Charity Commissioners, 1815-1835
  • Bucks Sessions Records, 1678-1730 (indexed).  The volumes include abstracts of Quarter Sessions Order Books, the names of those people who swore oaths of allegiance, and those of papists
  • Archives Index for pamphlets and books available in the search room, on local history and administration, as well as some parish histories.  

Indexes and annual reports

We have several different indexes to our collections, including by place and by personal name.  These are available to search in our Archives search-room.  In addition, we regularly publish lists of new accessions through our newsletter and annual report.