The Chelsea Society discovers treasures

Lucy Yates (WW1 Centenary Project Support Officer) writes:

On 13 July, Local Studies welcomed the Chelsea Society on a tour of the archives. The members were particularly delighted to see their Walter Greaves grisaille watercolours of riverside Chelsea, which are stored in the archive. Plans and descriptions of Ranelagh Pleasure Gardens, once an eighteenth century pleasure ground (where the Royal Hospital now stands), were also studied with interest.

Chelsea Society visit to RBKC Archives and Local Studies 2015
Chelsea Society visit to RBKC Archives and Local Studies

Amongst the other treasures down there, Dave Walker, the Local Historian, had unearthed fascinating mortuary books, which contained details of those killed during bombing raids in World War Two.

The Chelsea Scrapbooks, with their wealth of vivid World War One posters proved to be of great interest too.

'Meet me at the Chelsea Fair' WW1 poster, RBKC Archives and Local Studies
‘Meet me at the Chelsea Fair’ WW1 poster, RBKC Archives and Local Studies

“I suspect that you might find some of our members camping in Local Studies over the summer,” remarked Camilla Mountain of the Chelsea Society, and we were very pleased to have raised awareness of the wealth of material in the archives and how to access this.

The visit concluded with a well earned glass of wine upstairs and a hearty agreement that we’d be delighted to have the Chelsea Society back any time.

Opening hours for Local Studies
Tours for groups can be arranged by appointment. Contact Dave Walker at for further details.


Celebrating 150 years of Portobello and Golborne Market

Andy Norton, North Kensington library, writes:

Library Market stall at Portobello Rd
The Library Market Stall

Last Friday we spent an afternoon at Portobello Road Market, celebrating 150 years of local markets and promoting our own markets-inspired writing competition (more on that, below).

Despite the cold, the market was bustling and many residents stopped by to look at our photos, which showed the market from its early days.

Portobello Road began life in the 1860s as a humble country lane where farmers sold produce to local people. In 1864 the area was transformed by the opening of the Metropolitan Railway Notting Hill station – now known as Ladbroke Grove Station.

Painting of Portobello Rd from 1860s
A humble country lane…

During the 1920s and 30s, Portobello and Golborne Road Market further expanded with discharged soldiers and sailors, Spanish immigrants fleeing the civil war adding to the area’s diversity. By this time, second hand clothes, shoes and ornament stalls had joined the traditional fruit, vegetables, salad, meat, fish and flowers. After the Second World War, Portuguese people settled in the area, opening several specialist shops which are still trading in Golborne Road.

Picture of Marks & Spencer taken 1931
Portobello Road 1931

Antiques started to appear in the 1940s and 50s. Most antique stalls are open only on Saturday, which has always been the market’s busiest day.

Antique market at Portobello Road
Early morning antiquing

The 1940s and 50s also saw the arrival of Caribbean immigrants who came in response to post-war labour shortages.

An aerial view of Portobello Road, taken in 1951
An aerial view, 1951

The market has also featured in films such as Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971), Notting Hill (1999), and Paddington Bear (2014), as well as many television programmes, popular songs and literary works. Each has sparked the curiosity of a new generation of visitors and traders. We are hoping residents will be similarly inspired and take part in our short story competition which offers the opportunity to become a published author.

Portobello and Golborne Market is so big, so diverse, and so fast-changing, that chances are – even if you’re a frequent visitor – there’ll be stalls you’ve never discovered; arcades, nooks and crannies that you’ve never explored.

Promoting our Short Story Competition at Portobello Road Market, 2015
Promoting our Short Story Competition at Portobello Road Market, 2015

150 Years of Portobello & Golborne Market Short Story Competition!

Join RBKC Libraries & Markets for a unique literary collaboration, inspired by the rich history of our local markets.

Your short story can be written against any setting and from any period, including modern day.  The only necessary link is that your inspiration should come from your thoughts about Portobello or Golborne Market.

All winning entries will be published in an anthology that will be added to the library collection.

 Deadline for submissions 30th June

To register your interest and for full Terms and Conditions please email

Happy National Libraries Day!

Today, 7 February is National Libraries Day – are you coming to the library today? We’d love to see you.

National Libraries DayIf you haven’t been to the library for a while, pick your nearest one and come and find out what we have to offer.

Just come in and have a look at our wide range of books for both adults and children, use the library computers, ask a question, borrow a DVD or CD, find out about local history at the Local Studies Collection, or use the study space we offer.

On Saturdays in Kensington and Chelsea Libraries you can find a range of story times for children and IT help sessions. There are regular events every day that we’re open, with a brilliant programme of special events throughout the year.

If you can’t get to the library today, have a look at our brilliant online resources – you can download e-books and e-audiobooks for free, and use the Times newspaper archives and Berg Fashion Library (and more) from home too.

There are loads of reasons to love libraries this National Libraries Day. Come and find out why!

Happy World Book Day!

As it’s World Book Day, we thought we’d take the chance to show off some of our latest aquisitions from the Chelsea Library fashion collection…any excuse really!

Natalia Vodianova plays Alice with milliner Stephen Jones as the Mad Hatter and designer Christian Lacroix as the March Hare.
Natalia Vodianova plays Alice with milliner Stephen Jones as the Mad Hatter and designer Christian Lacroix as the March Hare.

From Vogue: the Editor’s Eye, (edited by Eva MacSweeney, 2012), a glossy new purchase full of fantastic images. This photograph is by Annie Leibovitz, from December 2003. 

Isabella Blow's fashion collection
Isabella Blow’s fashion collection

This image is from Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore! (edited by Alistair O’Neill, 2013), a publication that accompanied her fabulous collection, photographed by Nick Knight at Blow’s ancestral home. 

Avedon Fashion, 1944-2000
Avedon Fashion, 1944-2000

Another new purchase…  Avedon Fashion, 1944-2000, a book encompassing seven decades of extraordinary images by phographer Richard Avedon.  This black-and-white shot was taken in 1959. 

Naomi Campbell
Naomi Campbell

Naomi Campbell races a cheetah in Hair: Fashion and Fantasy by Laurent Philippon, 2013. Photographed by Jean Paul Goude, another striking image found on our shelves.

Looking through the large scale images in these books is a great way to appreciate some amazing work.  As well as our shiny new books, our costume collection also contains some treasures from a bygone age… fashion from before the birth of photography even. The contrast between fashion images then and now is astonishing.

These old volumes are really tactile things that we love to pore over.  Do come along to the library to have a look!  Happy World Book Day!

English Woman’s Domestic Magazine, June 1867.
English Woman’s Domestic Magazine, June 1867.
La Belle Assemblee, December 1808
La Belle Assemblee, December 1808


Hair: Fashion and Fantasy by Laurent Philippon, 2013

 Avedon Fashion, 1944-2000 by Richard Avedo

 Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore! edited by Alistair O’Neill, 2013. (page 98-99.)

Vogue: the Editor’s Eye edited by Eva MacSweeney, 2012.  (page 190-191.)


Angels at Olympia – our trip to Who do you think you are?- Live

Dave Walker, our Local Studies Librarian, writes:

The Who do you think you are live show at Olympia is a  big three day event in the world of genealogical and historical research for both the amateur and professional researchers and the information providers and for the first time staff and volunteers from all three Archives / Local Studies departments attended (Westminster, Hammersmith & Fulham and Kensington).

Exhibition Hall, Kensington Olympia
Exhibition Hall, Kensington Olympia

As you can see the historic exhibition hall at Olympia was heaving with enthusiasts. It has to be admitted that we weren’t actually in the centre of the action. Our stall is almost invisible under the balcony in the distance of this picture. But close up you can see we got plenty of attention.

Our stand
Our stand

This is the stall on Saturday where Alex from Westminster Archives, who also works at Hammersmith and Fulham Archives, is visible, along with two of H&F’s volunteers. Here they are again:

Alex and volunteers
Alex and volunteers

Eagle-eyed readers will note that the organisers have spelt Westminster incorrectly on the banner.

Other staff who spent time on the stall were myself, Tim Reid (K&C) Kim Smith (Westminster but soon to work at K&C as well), Maggie Tyler (volunteer at K&C), Alison Kenney and Adrian Autton (both from Westminster). Standing around all day is tiring work, but the stall got more than 300 visitors each day so my sore feet were worth it.

I did get the chance to wander around with a camera on Saturday.

Find my Past
Find my Past

That’s the Find my Past stand featuring a refugee from the Napoleonic wars, Myko Clelland.

Find my Past
Find my Past

And one of his colleagues in Regency dress. Or possibly a time traveller.

Below, the British Library Newspaper archive:

British Library  stall
British Library stall

Upstairs on the balcony there were a number of military related stands such as this one:

Military history
Military history

And what’s this?

Distant angels
Distant angels

Promoting the Spirit of Remembrance stand a pair of genuine, if slightly surreal, battlefield angels.


Clare and Maria, who kindly let me take a picture of them. Their costumes are based on images from actual propaganda posters of WW1.

I think the event could have been enhanced with a lot more historical costumes. Maybe we should try it next year. An 18th century man gentleman? A Victorian undertaker? A WW2 fighter pilot? And that’s just me.

Of course my favourite stand was this one:


They serve a fine venison sausage with mustard that cleared my sinuses.

We spoke to hundreds of people and encouraged them to visit the three Local Studies/Archives departments, we sold a lot of publications and I successfully answered an enquiry about Westminster, which was a first for me. Thanks to Adrian Autton of Westminster for organising the stand and all the staff and volunteers who attended.

The May Queens of Whitelands College

Dave Walker, our Local Studies Librarian writes our weekly local studies blog, The Library Time Machine. We’re very lucky that he writes for us occasionally too! Over to Dave….

Following my recent post Rites of Spring: Mr Ruskin’s May Queen on the Library Time Machine blog, I was invited to visit the May Queen archive at Roehampton University. Whitelands College, a teacher training college  was one of the first educational establishments for women and was started at Whitelands House in the King’s Road in the 1840s.

The art critic John Ruskin, together with the Principal of Whitelands College John Faunthorpe devised the idea for an annual May Queen festival at the College. The first May Queen Ellen I was elected by her fellow students in 1881 and there has been a May Queen or (from 1986 when King Gary was elected) a May King ever since. Whitelands College left Chelsea for a bigger building in Putney in 1930 and subsequently amalgamated with a number of other colleges to form the University of Roehampton. The Whitelands campus is now in a part Georgian part modern building originally called Manresa House which is an odd coincidence as the other Manresa in London is Manresa Road home of the first Chelsea Library.

Whitelands College
Whitelands College

We were taken by the Archivist, Gilly King to the secure archives room in the old part of the building. I was expecting to see photographs and college records preserved in archive boxes which we did find but I hadn’t anticipated what you can see below: two racks on which were hanging the dresses of the May Queens.

May Queen's dresses and a May King's suit!
May Queen’s dresses and a May King’s suit!

The dresses (and one May King’s suit on the left) in the pictures are for the living May Queens and Kings who can come back to the festival each year. The archive boxes contain the dresses of the dead queens packed away carefully as they will never be worn again although a few of them are on display in the College. There was also the one below.

Queen Ellen II's May Queen dress (1898)
Queen Ellen II’s May Queen dress (1898)

This is the dress first worn in 1898 by Queen Ellen II which had been on display and was now waiting to go back in its box.

I was accompanied on the visit by an Australian archives student who was doing a placement with us. I thought it would be useful for her to see a small specialist archive as part of her programme but my main purpose in going was to see the scrapbooks of photographs which cover the history of the May Queen festival, especially the ones that cover the period when the College was in Chelsea. I’ve been trying to get an image of each May Queen and to identify the previous queens in the group photos like this one.

Queen Agnes II and former May Queens (1909)
Queen Agnes II and former May Queens (1909)

From the left: Mildred I (1904),  Florence (1906), Elizabeth II (1892), Ellen I (1881), Agnes II (1909),Dorothy I (1908), Elsie II (1907) ,Evelyn (1905), Elizabeth I (1886)(I think),Muriel I (1903), Annie II (1895), Edith (1883)

The archive at Whitelands College is a fascinating and significant collection. It’s not open to the general public but the College does take part in the annual Open House event and there are also group tours.

On our way out we saw some more May Queen dresses on display.

Queen Elsie's and Queen Edna's May Queen dresses
Queen Elsie’s and Queen Edna’s May Queen dresses

These are the dresses of Elsie II who you can see in the group photos and Queen Edna (1924).

Here, in the May Queen corridor you can see Queen Thyra (1890) on the far right.

May Queen corridor
May Queen corridor

I managed to get a decent picture of Queen Elizabeth II (1892) who was also in the group photo as she was seventeen years before in the year when she was elected.

Queen Elizabeth II (1892)
Queen Elizabeth II (1892)

I took plenty of other pictures in the archives which will form part of an extensive file on this fascinating part of Chelsea’s history. The final picture is one for Shari to send home.

Shari at Whitelands College
Shari at Whitelands College
Dave Walker
Dave Walker

Dave Walker

Local Studies Librarian

Further information

Hot Off the Press – from the Titanic to Picasso

This is the final blog post in a series of four from Nina Risoli, one of our Tri-Borough Reference Librarians about two of our online reference databases:

You can catch up with last three posts, an introduction to both databases, more about  UK Newsstand and the Times Digital Archive.

This week Nina demonstrates how two very different subjects – the Titanic and Pablo Picasso –  can be researched on the Times Digital Archive and UK Newsstand.

Sinking the Unsinkable

The Titanic

You can experience the drama of events such as the sinking of the Titanic, for example, and follow the awful event as it was reported as the news trickled in.

Boarding Pass for the Titanic
Boarding Pass for the Titanic

This is a string of some of the results you get when you search the database inserting a single search term: Titanic.

  • Launch Of The Titanic. Vessel Successfully Takes The Water. (News) from our special correspondent
    The Times Thursday, Jun 01, 1911
  • The Largest Vessel Afloat. Maiden Voyage Of The Titanic. (News)
    The Times Thursday, Apr 11, 1912
  • The Titanic Disaster. (Editorials/Leaders)
    The Times Tuesday, Apr 16, 1912
  • Titanic Sunk. Terrible Loss Of Life Feared., Collision With An Iceberg., Official Messages. (News) (FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT.).The Times Tuesday, Apr 16, 1912
  • Position Of The Titanic At The Time Of The Disaster. (Picture Gallery)
    The Times Tuesday, Apr 16, 1912
  • The Marine Insurance Market. The Disaster To The Titanic. (Shipping News)
    The Times Tuesday, Apr 16, 1912
  • The Titanic Disaster. A Death Roll Of 1,328., List Of Survivors., World-Wide Expressions Of Sympathy. (News)
    The Times Wednesday, Apr 17, 1912
  • New York Stock Exchange. Dull On The Loss Of The Titanic. (Stock Exchange Tables)
    The Times Wednesday, Apr 17, 1912
  • Help For Titanic Victims. A Mansion House Fund., Donations From The King And Queen. (Letters to the Editor) THOS. BOOR CROSBY, Lord Mayor
    The Times Thursday, Apr 18, 1912
  • The Titanic. Number Of Survivors Still Doubtful., The Supply Of Boats., Relief Fund Opened In London. (News) (FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT.)
    The Times Thursday, Apr 18, 1912
Dinner Menu on the Titanic
Dinner Menu on the Titanic

The string of newspapers headlines eloquently illustrates how the ‘unsinkable’ ship went from this:

Titanic at Night
Titanic at Night

To this in one short week:

Sunken Titanic
Sunken Titanic


Fall and Rise of Picasso

Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso

In another example, the first article published in The Times about the artist, Pablo Picasso is dated 12 April1912 following the exhibition of his drawings in Stafford Gallery in Duke Street in London. It defends the artist from the accusations of being the ‘incompetent charlatan’ and discusses how the advent of photography ‘spooked’ artists like Picasso into exploring the abstract and moving away from representing form in the conventional way.


Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso

268 further results reveal the bewilderment of the established critics at the developments of this new way of artistic expression. They chart the artist’s rise through countless exhibitions, record-breaking sales, stolen works, attempts at forgery of his paintings, right through to the platitudes piled on him on the occasion of his 75th birthday, on 25th October 1956, in the article which declares him ‘among the greatest draughtsman to have appeared in the history of European art.’

…and finally his death at 91 on Monday, 9th April 1973, with The Times depicting him as the ‘greatest painter of modern times’ and a national treasure of several countries. Henry Moore calls him ‘probably the most naturally gifted artist since Raphael’ and the director of Tate hails him as ‘beyond comparison and the most original genius of the century.’

 “When I was a child, my mother said to me, ‘If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general. If you become a monk you’ll end up as the Pope.’ Instead, I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.”

It is interesting to note how the emphasis of the whole body of writing on the subject of Picasso on the Times Digital Archive is overwhelmingly his art, despite the fact that he had a very colourful private life. Out of 268 articles only a handful refer to his private life, briefly and respectfully.

The true fall-out of his manner of life and the fact that he left no will to help the family manage his gigantic legacy can be much better traced using UK Newsstand, reflecting our modern obsession with salacious detail and Picasso himself. Search for “Picasso women” yields staggering 9222 articles in UK Newsstand.

All this is interesting on its own merit, but if you are a student or a researcher or have a special interest in anything that happened or was talked about in this country in the last 200 years – Times Digital Archive can enrich your understanding and widen you research through its particular take on people and events captured in news articles as they unfolded.

If you wish to have a demonstration of the Times Digital Archive or UK Newsstand please contact Kensington Central Reference Library on  A reference librarian will be delighted to help you get familiar with the databases and set you off on your own journey of discovery. Kensington Central Reference Library has 5 dedicated computers available for researching our online databases.

Nina Risoli
Nina Risoli

Nina Risoli, Tri- Borough Reference Librarian

Kensington Central Reference Library

Hot Off the Press – UK Newsstand

Latest News, newspaper caption
Latest News, newspaper caption

This is the second in a series of four blog posts from Nina Risoli, one of our Tri-Borough Reference Librarians about two of our online reference databases:

You can catch up with last Monday’s post, an introduction to both databases. This week Nina tells us about UK Newsstand.

UK Newsstand lets you access 299 regional and national newspapers and magazines (along with several trade and scholarly journals), from Aberdeen Evening Express to the Yorkshire Post. You can read broadsheets or tabloids, anything from small local newspapers such as Hackney Gazette to the big national newspapers such as The Guardian, The Times, The Independent and The Daily Telegraph, within 24 hours of them being pressed. You can also easily catch up with anything you might have missed.

Assorted newspapers
National newspapers
More assorted newspaper titles
Local newspapers

TIP: to gain access to the database you should always go through either the  Kensington and Chelsea’s reference page selecting the relevant database from the links on the right. Or on the Kensington and Chelsea Digital library newspaper page. Click on “View Title List” on the following page for information on publications included in the database, as well as the length of each archive.

Ed Stein cartoon 'Infrastructure' Photo: Ed STein '08 Rocky Mtn News NEA
Ed Stein cartoon ‘Infrastructure’ Photo: Ed Stein ’08 Rocky Mtn News NEA

At the moment the press itself is under scrutiny. Searching for terms such as ‘Levison’ or ‘press regulation’ using UK Newsstand is far superior than searching via a search engine. Search engines will throw up many relevant sites and articles but they will displayed haphazardly and you’ll need at least five more clicks to get to the information you want on each site (then go back and look for another source and so on). Using UK Newsstand gives you a comprehensive list of chronologically ordered results from all the selected publications. This allows you to have an extensive overview how a certain subject was reported in the press.

For serious researchers there is My Research – a place where you can save, manage, and organise the content and supporting materials you find using the database. You can include texts, articles, searches, tags, shared lists, search alerts, RSS feeds, and more.

TIP: Use quotation marks rather than brackets to obtain exact phrases.

TIP: UK Newsstand can be displayed in over 10 languages – the results will still be in English but it may be easier to navigate around the site in your own language!
UK Newsstand provides millions of documents from thousands of sources, covering research and subject areas like these:

  • The Arts 
  • Business
  • Health & Medicine
  • History
  • Literature & Language
  • Science & Technology
  • Social Sciences

The database offers the full range of searching options. You can use keyword search for the publications you select, you can choose the type of documents you want to view or search Obituaries and death notices to help find ancestors, relatives, and notable figures.

If you wish to have a demonstration of TDA or UK Newsstand please contact Kensington Central Reference Library on A reference librarian will be delighted to help you get familiar with the databases and set you off on your own journey of discovery. Kensington Central Reference Library has 5 dedicated computers available for researching our online databases.

A young newspaper vendor at work in Fleet Street, 1894. Photo: Mary Evans Pictures Library/ Alamy
A young newspaper vendor at work in Fleet Street, 1894. Photo: Mary Evans Pictures Library/ Alamy

Nina Risoli, Tri- Borough Reference Librarian

Nina Risoli
Nina Risoli

Kensington Central Reference Library

Death, Taxes and Local History

Local Studies Library
Local Studies Library

Kensington and Chelsea’s Local Studies collection is housed at Kensington Central Library.

Have you ever wondered what our Local Studies Library is and what we do? It’s a question we sometimes get asked by the casual reader as they explore our newly refurbished library. The title may sound a little vague if you have never encountered a Local Studies Library before, but effectively what it actually means in its broader sense is that Local Studies is a collection of written and illustrated records that depict the history of a specific area or locality. It is the study of our local environment, our social history and all manner of local subjects past, present and future.

Local Studies Library team
Local Studies Library team

We house and archive a large collection of material pertaining to Kensington and Chelsea; everything from census records, local newspapers that go as far back as 1855, Vestry/Council records, manuscripts and electoral registers to photographs, illustrations, local books/publications and general ephemera that have been collected and carefully catalogued over many years. Part of the team’s job is to maintain and store this precious material appropriately. Some of our oldest items date back to the 16th century and in order to ensure their continued longevity we keep them in a temperature maintained room and ensure their preservation in archival boxes. Other historical sources dating back to the 18th century are still used regularly today such as rate books, which show the rates paid by owners of some of the first properties to appear in Kensington and Chelsea. It goes to show that even in the 18th century tax was recorded meticulously. Death and taxes is the saying…
Many of our visitors are interested in researching their family history, or simply want to find out how old their house is. Others may be authors or curators researching material for a specific book or exhibition. The enquiries we get are always broad and fascinating and on many occasions stretch our research skills in the most unexpected ways: did you know that Charles Dickens was married in St Luke’s Church, Chelsea? That Henry VIII built his riverside mansion at Chelsea and was a regular visitor of the area? That the name of Kensington is actually Saxon, first recorded in the Domesday Book as Chenesitun? That the ‘Royal’ in the borough title was bestowed upon Kensington by Queen Victoria, herself born in Kensington Palace? I have to admit, prior to my years working for the department I knew very little of these historical facts. It is true that sometimes we pick up a book and come across some interesting snippets of information. But it was only when I began to acquaint myself with the wonderful items in the collection that I began to learn in earnest – a most satisfactory endeavour for anyone who has an interest in knowledge and preserving it.

The nature of Local Studies is that we keep adding to the records and enhancing our sources. Sometimes we are a repository for other collections too which enriches our own. We as a team are committed to keeping and preserving this treasure trove that ultimately presents us with a picture of the local community as it was, as it is and how it will be. Should curiosity be in your nature you are very welcome to visit the Local Studies Library where you may find secrets waiting to be discovered as one lady did when she found out one of her ancestors was a duke, to the surprise of all her relatives.
For more on Local Studies please see the wonderful blog written by the Local Studies Librarian, Dave Walker. It’s called The Library Time Machine

We had an Open Afternoon on the 8th December, people were treated to a tour of our archive rooms and had a look at some of the treasures in them. It was a great success and we will be having some more in 2013. We’re open six days a week from 1pm- come in and meet the team: Senior Customer Services Assistants, Isabel Hernandez, Katrina Wilson, Tim Reid and our Local Studies Librarian, Dave walker. We will try to answer any questions you may have regarding the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s local history.

Isabel Hernandez in action!
Isabel Hernandez in action!

Isabel Hernandez, Senior Customer Services Assistant
Kensington and Chelsea Local Studies Library

Who Do You Think You Are?

Ancestry Logo

Are you a fan of the BBC 1 programme, ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ If you’ve felt the urge to trace your family history then why not use Ancestry? Of course to find out more about your family history you can always ask family members and you will find out all sorts. However this isn’t always possible.

There are lots of family history databases online. Some are free to use  but they only contain a small amount of information compared to Ancestry.  You can access Ancestry free of charge from any computer in our libraries.

Ancestry Family Tree
Ancestry Family Tree

So what can you find out with Ancestry?

Well there are some great resources including the Census, records of Tax, Birth, Marriage and Death, immigration, military and travel, Electoral Registers and more. These can provide you with a great breadcrumb trail taking you from records of you and your close family (it’s always a good start to try to find a record of for instance your own birth), to ones from the 19th century when the Census and other record keeping began (you can go back even further if you are lucky; there are records which go all the way back to the 16th century).

If you have managed to follow your ancestors back to 1911 or before you will be in luck as after 100 years the Census records become available. This contains a wonderful amount of information including your ancestor’s address at the time, their age and birth place, occupation, who was living with them and their relationship to them.

Putting your detective cap on you can follow all these clues and create a whole family tree with the help of relatives, including perhaps some you don’t even know yet! Nevertheless, it can be a bit tricky to use. Bear in mind that there are literally millions of entries in there. Furthermore, Ancestry tries to put them in order of relevance but this can have both a positive and negative effect; putting the names which meet your search criteria better higher up the list than those that don’t but at the same time putting American results often higher up than those from outside e.g. English results.

Top tips for your epic searches include:

• Don’t put in too much especially if you have an unusual surname
• Search specific databases e.g. the 1911 census
• Put in information such as year of birth, location

Do be warned tracing your family history does take time! If you need any assistance – pop into your local Kensington and Chelsea library or visit the Local Studies Library at Kensington Central Library.

Looking at plans in the Local Studies Library

The Local Studies Library will be having an Open Day on Saturday 8 December. Staff will be on hand to demonstrate how to use Ancestry as well as showing the other resources they have that can help with tracing your family history.  You will also have a chance to tour the archives.

If you can’t make that date, Marylebone Library in Westminster has a family history group which meets once a month. They share tips and experiences about researching family history. For more information please email:

Owen Grey, Reference Librarian

Kensington Central Reference Library and Marylebone Information Service