Sussex family history records viewed over 10 million times

Over the last three years West Sussex Record Office and East Sussex and Brighton and Hove Record Office have been working in partnership with Ancestry to put millions of historic records online.

In 2022 the parish registers and electoral registers for East and West Sussex were launched online for the first time with these collections now racking up over 10 million views. This month, the historic wills and probate records have been added providing family and local historians worldwide with access to a rich and comprehensive treasure trove of resources.

The parish registers, comprising over 1,900 volumes from West Sussex alone, now contain over 11 million searchable names, offering a detailed look into the lives of Sussex’s residents from 1538-1995. The electoral registers spanning from 1832-1963 were launched in December 2022, offering 8,208,872 records and 153,911 images from West Sussex and 20,425,086 records and 387,262 images for East Sussex and Brighton and Hove.

The addition of wills and other probate records dating from 1521 to 1858, including 155,661 records from West Sussex, provide a fascinating insight into the lives of our ancestors. Where wills are accompanied by probate inventories, they provide details of their properties and possessions often with a room-by-room list of their furniture and belongings. Over 12,000 probate inventories survive for West Sussex including details of the contents of houses, houses, farms, pubs, trades and businesses.

All of these digital records are free to access on Ancestry at both Record Offices and at libraries throughout Sussex enabling more people than ever to delve into their pasts and discover their families’ history. Ancestry is the largest for-profit genealogy company in the world which operates a network of genealogical, historical records, and related genetic genealogy websites.

Cllr Duncan Crow, West Sussex County Council Cabinet Member for Community Support, Fire & Rescue, said: “The fantastic thing about using Ancestry at the Record Office is that you don’t have to sign up with your own Ancestry account or pay for a subscription. There is also support on hand if you’re struggling to find the information you are searching for.”

Wendy Walker, County Archivist at West Sussex Record Office, said: “Our collaboration with Ancestry has opened up our historical resources to everyone both locally and across the world. Whilst the parish and electoral registers provide us with the names, dates and places of residence of our ancestors, the wills and inventories allow us to learn more about their lives and in some cases to go through the keyhole and look into their houses, their places of work and their leisure time. We look forward to welcoming family history enthusiasts to the Record Office and our libraries to explore their ancestry and the rich history of West Sussex.”

To use these facilities, including access to the Ancestry website at West Sussex Record Office, you will need a free Archives Card. Registration can be started on the Archives Card website and completed at West Sussex Record Office within three months of submitting your form. Library members can use Ancestry for free at any of our libraries for a maximum of two hours per day. Non-members can either join at no cost or opt to pay a small visitor’s fee.

To find out more about West Sussex Record Office, visit www.westsussex.gov.uk/recordoffice

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