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Discover local history in your library

If you are interested in local and family history, local libraries are a good place to start your research. The type of resources available depends on the size of the library, but many local libraries have a small local history collection.

Local history collections may include:

  • books and pamphlets about the particular town or village (sometimes these are written by local historians)
  • copies of the History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham by Robert Surtees
  • other standard local history books.

Libraries may have old photographs and newspaper cuttings files. Many of the local history resources in libraries are single copy books and can only be used in the library. We also provide books giving advice on tracing family history and starting research.

Libraries are involved in a number of local history projects which can give you the opportunity to learn more about the history of your area. Your library will have information about local history groups in your area.  Many local history groups meet in their local library.

Although many of our libraries hold only a small collection of local history information, a lot more resources are available in the Durham County Record Office and in Durham Clayport Library.

Durham Clayport Library

The reference section in Durham Clayport Library holds many useful and fascinating sources of information about people and places in County Durham, especially the northern reaches. Some resources are of special interest to family historians. Others are useful for people looking at places and events.

Local history resources

  • Books and pamphlets - the local studies collection includes over 10,000 books, pamphlets, articles and newspaper cuttings.
  • Maps - available at various scales covering Durham City and the surrounding area. Ordnance Survey maps from 1860, 1898 and 1923 (covering County Durham) are available on our computer database, the Durham Record, and we also have a small collection of old original maps.
  • Local newspapers - copies of the Durham County Advertiser (1814-2001) and the Durham Chronicle (1820-1951) are available on microfilm. We also have a newspaper cuttings file which contains articles of local interest.
  • Photographs - our computer database, The Durham Record, holds over 10,000 photographs dating from around 1860 to the present day.
  • Trade directories - our collection of local and business directories covers County Durham and Northumberland for various dates from 1827 to 1994.

Family history resources

  • General Register Office Index (known as the St Catherine's House Index): civil registration of births, marriages and deaths began in 1837 in England and Wales. The General Register Office produces an index to these records which is available in  Durham Clayport Library  on microfiche.
  • Census Records: national censuses have been taken every ten years since 1841. Full census details are not released until 100 years later. The 1911 census is now available via Ancestry. Durham County Record Office has microfiche and microfilm copies of the census available for the historic County of Durham for 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891 and 1901.
  • International Genealogical Index (IGI): this index, available on microfiche, is compiled by the Church of the Latter-day Saints and gives details of births, deaths and marriages taken from parish registers all over the country.
  • Parish registers: Durham Clayport Library has some parish registers in printed format or on microfiche. However, a larger selection is available at the Durham County Record Office.
  • Ancestry Library Edition: All our libraries have a subscription to Ancestry Library. Book now via Library Online to use this resource for free. It covers the census, General Register Office index and other useful resources for family history.

If you would like to look at any of the resources available on microfiche and microfilm we recommend that you contact Durham Clayport Library to book a session before you visit, as these machines are in heavy demand.

Durham County Record Office

The Durham County Record Office is responsible for collecting and preserving documents relating to the life and work of the people of County Durham and Darlington, their politics, religions, recreation and health. Large numbers of historical documents have been deposited by their owners for safe-keeping in the Record Office. These include records of: Durham County Council, other local councils in the county, Church of England parishes in the Dioceses of Durham and Ripon, non-conformist churches, National Coal Board, pre-nationalisation (pre-1947) colliery companies, landed families and estates, solicitors, businesses, schools, colleges and individuals.

Contact us
Durham County Record Office
03000 267 619
Our address is:
  • Durham County Council
  • County Hall
  • Durham
  • County Durham
  • United Kingdom
  • DH1 5UL

Durham Clayport Library
03000 265 524
Our address is:
  • Millennium Place
  • Durham
  • County Durham
  • United Kingdom
  • DH1 1WA
0191 386 0379
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