British and Irish Genealogical Collections

Find out more about how the IHR Wohl Library collections can help with genealogical research. We hold guides to family research, listings of people by certain professions and educational bodies, and a large local history collection.


The IHR library is a collection of published sources, guides to sources, reference works and periodicals. Although we hold a lot of material of value for genealogical research, the library is not the best starting point - the UK National Archives website has a comprehensive range of guides covering birth, marriage, death, wills, census records among many other subjects which are useful pointers to material held in the National Archives and elsewhere. There are also official guides to the records of Scotland and Ireland. Other organisations are listed below.

The IHR contains valuable resources for researching more specific subjects such as people in certain professions, religious and state office holders. We have a strong collection of local history sources, including many editions of local records and biographical listings. Local record offices, archives and libraries will contain unpublished and more in-depth collections of local material. We hold genealogical resources across all collections covering Western Europe and its colonial history, but this guide focuses on the UK where collections are most complete for this subject. Researchers are welcome to visit the IHR to consult the collections, see further details about our membership. We aren't able to do research for people, but the National Archives maintains a list of researchers who are able to undertake genealogical research.

Below are some of the areas of the IHR collections which will be particularly beneficial for genealogical research.

Highlights of the Collections

Collective Biographical Works

The majority of these are shelved at classmark B.2, subdivided as follows:

Wills, Marriage and Visitation Records

Local Record Society Series

Many local record society series publish local sources. The Royal Historical Society produce a useful listing via their website. Examples include:

Trade and Street Directories

These may be useful for occupation and address information, advertisements for businesses, and other local listings such as local government office holders. Although we don't have a complete set, we have a substantial collection particularly for the second half of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. London, Irish and Scottish directories are with the relevant collections, with those covering the English counties and Wales in the English local history collection (as the latter cover the English borders and Wales together).

Other collections:

Poll Books

Published voting records, including address information. Right to vote was based on land ownership. Ceased after secret balloting was introduced. The IHR has a vast collection, shelved at BC.25 and arranged by English county. Some records from Scotland, Wales and Ireland are also included here. They cover from the early C18th and are particularly strong for the C19th.

See Poll Books collection guide for further information.

Victoria County History

Detailed local history records for many English counties, including lists of local office holders, abbots etc, history of particular manors and land transfers.

Electronic resources:

Military Records

A range of military biographical material is held at the W.3 classmark in the Military collection, including the following:

Electronic resources:

Online Resources

Access full list of our electronic resources. Below are a few examples of resources that could be useful for this subject (most are available onsite in the IHR or via subscription only):


Current copies of our journals are on open access in the library, and back issues can be ordered from the stack. Many are also available online within the building via the links on the catalogue entry. BBIH and JSTOR are examples of the online databases that can be used to locate journal articles. Depending on your subject area of interest, useful background material will be found across the collection, for example in local and regional journals.

Background history on families and demography:

Further Help

Contact us if you would like help on finding or using our collections, or if you have any comments or suggestions about the content of this guide. We are happy to help.

You can also book a tour or training session.