Using the Archive for Family History

Over recent years the desire to study and research genealogy and family history has become increasingly popular. Once you have researched as much background information as possible, you can begin to research in the archives. Most of the research will take place in the archives, local libraries and family history centres. In order to fully conduct your research you will need to look at birth, death and marriage certificates, and parish records, among other things.[1] If you are unfamiliar with any of the above places then they can seem very daunting, but the staff are very friendly and are there to help you. There are also many useful leaflets and pamphlets available to offer a basic guide and make your research life easier.

The St. David’s Priory Collection offers a wide range of sources for this kind of research including:

  •   Register of Baptisms – Dating from 1808 to 1950
  •   Register of Marriages – Dating from 1840 to 1956
  •   Register of Burials – Dating from 1859 to 1870
  •   School Registers – Dating from 1858 to 1884
  •   Pupil Teacher Contracts

These sources can provide the opportunity to research the history of Catholic individuals. If we look beyond the well-known census reports there is a wealth of alternative sources contained in the St. David’s Priory Collection, which could help to fill in certain gaps in information and anecdotes about past relatives.


Register of Baptisms, Marriages and Deaths

If you know your relatives lived in the parish, these sources would be a useful tool for tracing Catholic relatives; however it would be useful to know a rough date because there are several of them. The registers are in chronological order and fairly simple and straightforward to read (though some are written in Latin, the official language of the Church, but How to Read Latin will explain how simple this is).  Several entries include the individuals country of origin or place of birth which can be used to trace the migration of individuals and their families, for example if it is that an individual has come from Bristol, it would helped to guide the family historian to further their research in Bristol for the remainder of the family. These sources can also be used to trace migration patterns to Swansea. The marriage registers include not only personal details but lists of professions, which could provide more detail to the history and personal circumstances that is being researched. This may also allow the researcher to discover more on the trade they worked in by using trade directories or through research of the professional body from which the belonged.  Registers and certificates are important sources for the family history because they provide extra detail not normally found elsewhere, for example parents’ names, occupations and addresses.


School Records

The school records contain useful information regarding the childhood of individuals in the community and the registers of attendance include a list all the children who attended the school, and overall provide their ages and addresses. [2] The names listed on the registers are not all Catholic as non-Catholic parents believed that their children would be better looked after in St. David’s School than the state run schools.[3] Pupil-teacher contracts allow an insight into the career progression of some of the female members of the Catholic community.

Inside Strongroom 2, Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University

Strongroom, Source: Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University

Here are five quick steps to help you begin the research of your family history:

Step 1

Gather as much information as possible from relatives, family bibles, and birth, marriage and death certificates.

Step 2

Create and organise the information in the form of a family tree either on paper or as a digital version using computer software.

Step 3

Check online what types of documents and sources are held in the local archives, this can be done by using the Archive Wales online catalogue.

Step 4

Check the archive website for opening times and arrange a visit to view the documents. To contact the Richard Burton Archives click here.

Step 5

Visit the archives and begin your discovery of the past.


[1] BBC Family History, (Accessed, 27/04/2014)

[2] Archive Wales, (Accessed, 27/04/2014)

[3] LAC/99/C10, Richard Burton Archives








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