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100 Questions Answered: Making Contacts (Q49-Q55)

Q49. How can I trace my relatives and friends in Britain?

wedding photo with relatives

It is sometimes helpful to place an advertisement in the personal column of local newspapers in the area where relatives or friends were last known to be living. Addresses of local newspapers in Britain can be obtained from Willings Press Guide, published annually by Reed Information Services, Windsor Court, East Grinstead House, East Grinstead, West Sussex RH19 1XA.

Visitors to Britain can trace relatives and friends through local electoral registers, which contain the names and addresses of everyone living in an area over the age of 18, or current telephone directories. Electoral registers and current telephone directories for the whole country can be viewed at most libraries. Telephone directories dating from the end of the 19th century to the recent past may be viewed at:

British Telecom Archives
Telephone House, 2-4 Temple Avenue, London EC4Y OHL
Tel.: +44 (0) 171 822 1022

At least a day’s notice should be given for an appointment. Birth, marriage and death certificates feature addresses of individuals. Copies may be viewed and purchased at offices listed in question 51.

Family members: the following registered charities offer a tracing service in urgent cases for immediate family members only:

Salvation Army Family Tracing Service
101 Newington Causeway
London SE1 6BN
Tel.: 011 44 020 7367 4747
E-mail family.tracing@salvationarmy.org.uk

Note: Persons living outside Britain should initially contact the Salvation Army in their country.

International Social Service of the UK
Cranmer House, 39 Brixton Road, London SW9 6DD
Tel.: +44 (0) 171 735 8491

The Department of Social Security may assist in tracing missing relatives only in the event of a family crisis such as a death or sudden illness:

Section A, Department of Social Security
Longbenton, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE98 1YX
Tel.: +44 (0) 191 213 5000

If you want to ask the help of professional researchers or detective agencies in Britain consult the following organisations for advice and a list of members:

Association of British Investigators Ltd
1The Brentano Suite, Catalyst House, Centennial Park, Elstree, Hertfordshire, WD6 3SY
Tel.: +44 (0) 20 8191 7500
Association of Genealogists and Record Agents
29 Badgers Close, Horsham, West Sussex RH12 5RU
Tel.: +44 (0) 140 326 3119

(please enclose six International Reply Coupons).

Institute of Professional Investigators
31a Wellington Street, St John’s, Blackburn BB1 8AF
Tel.: +44 (0) 125 468 0072

For further information on tracing family members see also advice on compiling a family tree in question 50.

Q50. Where can I get information for my family tree?

Sources of information for those undertaking genealogical research include birth, marriage and death certificates which are available from the appropriate register office (see question 51); parish registers (information available from county or district record offices) and divorce records (available from the appropriate office - see question 51).

In addition, public records are valuable sources of information. Copies of material such as legal documents, property and succession records, census returns, taxation records, old parish registers, etc. should be sought from the following offices. Please note that offices can answer specific enquiries, but will not undertake research:

England and Wales

Family Records Centre
1 Myddleton Street, London EC1R 1UW
Tel.: +44 (0) 181 392 5300


Scottish Record Office
HM General Register House, Edinburgh EH1 3YY
Tel.: +44 (0) 131 556 6585

Northern Ireland

Public Record Office
66 Balmoral Avenue, Belfast BT9 6NY
Tel.: +44 (0) 123 266 1621

Genealogical researchers: Those wishing to enlist the services of an independent agent to conduct research on their behalf may contact the Record Office concerned for a list of reputable researchers, or write to:

Association of Genealogists and Record Agents
29 Badgers Close, Horsham, West Sussex RH12 5RU
Tel.: +44 (0) 140 326 3119

(enclose six International Reply Coupons)

Further advice can be found in: "Tracing your Ancestors in the Public Record Office", by Amanda Bevin and Andrea Duncan (HMSO (now The Stationery Office Limited), 1990).

General enquiries about Stationery Office publications should be sent to:

The Publications Centre,
PO Box 276, London SW8 5DT
Tel.: +44 (0) 171 873 0011

Q51. Where do I get birth, marriage and death certificates and divorce records?

To obtain certificates of birth, marriage and death in England and Wales since 1 July 1837 contact:

The General Register Office
PO Box 2, Southport, Merseyside PR8 2JD
Tel.: +44 (0) 170 456 3563

Certificates cost £15.00 per full certificate, inclusive of postage. Payment should be made by International Money Order in pounds sterling (or sterling draft) made out to a London clearing house. Cheques should be made payable to the OFFICE FOR NATIONAL STATISTICS (International Money Orders are obtainable from the foreign exchange department of large banks or specialist foreign exchange companies). Payment can also be made by Access, Visa or Mastercard.

Certificates can be obtained in person from:

General Register Office
St Catherine’s House, 10 Kingsway, London WC2B 6JP
Tel.: +44 (0) 171 242 0262

Certificates issued in Scotland since 1855 (and many previously) can be obtained by post or in person from:

Registrar General, New Register House, Edinburgh EH1 3YT
Tel.: +44 (0) 131 334 0380
(Price £12.00 per certificate)

Certificates issued in Northern Ireland since 1864 can be obtained by post or in person from:

Registrar General
Oxford House, Chichester Street, Belfast BT1 4HL
Tel.: +44 (0) 123 225 0000
(£6.00 per certificate)

Records from Northern Ireland for the period 1864-1922 are also kept at:

The General Register Office
Joyce House, 8-11 Lombard Street East, Dublin 2
Tel.: +353 1 671 1968

Some records prior to the dates noted are held by parish registers. Local county or district record offices should be contacted for advice on their availability.

Divorce records for England and Wales can be obtained from:

Chief Clerk, Divorce Registry
Room G45, Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 1LP

Postal enquiries are liable to a fee of £20.00 (plus postage) for a decree absolute in each 10 year period searched. Records prior to 1938 are held at:

Family Records Centre,
1 Myddleton Street, London EC1R 1UW
Tel.: +44 (0) 171 233 9233

Those looking for Scottish and Northern Irish divorce records should first send a written enquiry to:


Extractor of the Court of Session
2 Parliament Square, Edinburgh EH11RF
Tel.: +44 (0) 131 225 2595
A fee of £14.00 is charged for each certificate

Northern Ireland

Chief Registrar, High Court of Justice
Chichester Street, Belfast BT1 3JF
Tel.: +44 (0) 123 223 5111
A fee of £5.00 is charged if the case reference is known - if not, an additional £5.00 fee is charged.

Q52. How do I find pen friends in Britain?

The following organisations may be contacted by those wishing to write to people in Britain. When writing, correspondents should give their own age, sex and interests as well as those of their preferred pen friend. A self-addressed envelope and at least one International Reply Coupon (IRC, available from post offices) should be enclosed.

Pen Friend League International was established in 1968 to encourage greater understanding between different peoples of the world and to bring about lasting friendships. Pen friends can be arranged from any continent and there is no age limit. Enclose two IRCs to cover the cost of reply postage:

Pen Friend League International
143 Oscott School Lane, Great Barr, Birmingham B44 9EL

Friends by Post is a voluntary organisation which establishes contacts between people of similar ages and interests who wish to exchange news and views. (Note: matrimonial requests cannot be accepted!):

Friends by Post,
43 Chatsworth Road, High Lane, Stockport, Cheshire SK6 8DA

Q53. How do I organise youth exchanges with Britain?

The Youth Exchange Centre, a department of the British Council, promotes youth exchange between Britain and other countries. Although its primary function is to establish contacts between youth groups in Britain and abroad, youth groups overseas may be able to advertise in its newsletter, "Youth Exchange News".

The Youth Exchange Centre
The British Council, 10 Spring Gardens, London SW1A 2BN
Tel.: +44 (0) 171 389 4030 Fax: +44 (0) 171 389 4033

The Commonwealth Youth Exchange Council (CYEC) promotes contact between groups of people aged 16-25 from Britain and all other Commonwealth countries by means of two-way youth exchanges. It also publishes "Contact", a handbook for Commonwealth youth exchange and "Safety Welfare Guidelines" - essential reading for youth exchange organisers. Note: CYEC is not able to provide direct funding to overseas groups.

7 Lion Yard, Tremadoc Rd, Clapham, London SW4 7NQ
Tel.: +44 (0) 171 498 6151 Fax: +44 (0) 171 720 5403

The European Commission operates the Youth for Europe Programme, and can put youth groups in the 15 EU member states and in Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway in contact with Youth for Europe National Agencies. For full details of the programme write to:

The European Commission,
Directorate-General XXII Education, Training and Youth
Unit C.2, Rue de la Loi 200, B-1049, Brussels
Tel.: (32-2) 295 11 00 Fax: (32-2) 299 41 58

Q54. How do I organise school exchanges with Britain?

Those wishing to organise school exchanges should write to:

The Central Bureau for Educational Visits and Exchanges
10 Spring Gardens, London SW1A 2BN
Tel.: +44 (0) 171 389 4004 Fax: +44 (0) 171 389 4426

The Central Bureau is the national office responsible for the provision of information and advice on all forms of educational visits and exchanges from Britain and the linking of British educational establishments and local education authorities with counterparts abroad.

The European School Exchange Databank allows schools seeking a partner to register on a database. The information provided will then be passed on to potential partners across Europe. Registration on the database is free, but a listing of registered schools is charged for.

The European School Exchange Databank
Stichting Europees Platform voor het Nederlandse Onderwijs
Nassauplein 8, 1815 GM Alkmaar, The Netherlands
Tel.: (31) 72 511 8502

Q55. How can I twin my town with one in Britain?

Write to the International Links Team at:

Local Government International Bureau
35 Great Smith Street, London SW1P 3BJ
Tel.: +44 (0) 171 222 1636 Fax: +44 (0) 171 233 2179

for an information pack on twinning.

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