Hertfordshire Genealogy

Guide to Old Hertfordshire

Visiting Hertfordshire to look for Ancestors

People who visit England hoping to find out something of their roots, but who know little of the availability of the relevant genealogical records, etc., are often disappointed. For instance there is no point it turning up at a church (which may well be locked) and expect to see the registers, as these are now almost always held in the relevant county records office, which in Hertfordshire is HALS. Any birth marriage or death certificates, and any census searches, should be done online so you are well prepared before you come and can plan out what you need to see. The facilities available in the National Archives at Kew can be very useful, including many document sources unavailable elsewhere. It is very easy for the unprepared to spend a lot of time travelling round chasing records, or looking for ancestral homes or family graves with little to show for their efforts. If time in England is limited there are a number of ways of making a visit to an ancestor's home area more productive.

Finally, have a good look round this site and follow up any leads. If you find specific gaps ask. I plan to add many more pages to the site - and am happy to move any pages you want up my priority queue.

It is perhaps worth adding a note about travel in Hertfordshire. Travel routes are dominated by the presence of London, and have been so since Roman times. Transport by road, rail and even canal is far easier if you are travelling in a north-south direction, while in much of the county east-west travel means windy back roads and there is no rail option. Bus services are also limited - particularly in the more rural areas.

If you have a limited amount of time, or do not drive, you should plan your visit with care. and if there are several well-spaced towns you wish to visit, a base in London, travelling out to Hertfordshire on different railway lines on different days, might be an answer. There can be significant discounts on train tickets if booked online well in advance. Most of the records are at HALS in Hertford (tucked in the south east corner of the county), while St Albans is in a more central position and has many historic buildings, including Roman remains, a magnificent Abbey, an ancient town centre and two museums.

One particular warning. Due to thefts and vandalism many churches and chapels are normally locked so do not expect to turn up and see where your ancestors were baptised or married if you haven't checked on access arrangements in advance.

June 2010   Update to draw more attention to useful web sites.