Information about our local history, family history, special collections, and Family History for beginners sessions. 

Family History for beginners sessions

These are one to one sessions in a library that show you how to use, Find My Past, and other resources.

The sessions are run at The Central Library, and Bishopston Library.

How to book a session

Central Library sessions

Central Library sessions are run on:

  • Mondays: 2.30pm to 3.30pm, and 3.30pm to 4.30pm
  • Fridays: 10.30am to 11.30am, and 11.30am to 12.30pm
  • Saturdays: 10.30am to 11.30am, and 11.30am to 12.30pm

Book your Central Library session on Eventbrite.

Bishopston Library sessions

Bishopston Library sessions are run on:

  • Wednesdays: 2pm to 3pm, and 3pm to 4pm

Book your Bishopston Library session on Eventbrite.

Local history

Our local history collection in the reference library includes:

  • street directories
  • poll books and electoral registers
  • photographs, engravings and drawings
  • maps
  • local newspapers and magazines
  • press cuttings
  • books relating to Bristol and surrounding area

Family history

Find genealogy and family history books at any of our libraries. Search the LibrariesWest catalogue.

The main sources in our reference library at Bristol Central Library include:

  • the index of births, marriages and deaths from 1837 to 1983
  • census returns covering 1841 to 1901
  • street directories
  • poll books and electoral registers

Online family history resources

Access Ancestry and Find my past on any library computer.

You can search billions of records covering:

  • birth, marriage, death and parish records
  • census, land and surveys
  • directories and social history
  • education and work
  • institutions and organisations
  • military
  • travel and migration

You cannot access these resources from home.

The 1921 Census is now available in Bristol Libraries through Find My Past.

Special collections

We have a large collection of rare and unique materials at Central library, including:

  • manuscripts
  • early printed books
  • pamphlets and broadsides

You need to book an appointment to view any special collections.

For more information or to book an appointment, email or phone 0117 903 7202.

Group visits

We welcome visits from schools, colleges and groups.

To book a visit or for more information, email

Find the opening hours for Central Library.