Uncover your ancestry for free at Hampshire Libraries

Mar 6 2024

Two men look at desktop computers

Explore history for free with Hampshire Libraries in partnership with Hampshire Archives and Local Studies and Ancestry. With more than 500 years of records to sift through, uncovering the past has never been easier. Delve into probate records (wills and inventories) and parish registers (baptisms, marriages and burials).

To help you get started, we’ve put together a handy how-to guide to accessing Ancestry for free on a public computer at your local Hampshire library.

The burial entry for Florence Nightingale in the parish register for Wellow. The burial entry for Florence Nightingale in the parish register for Wellow.

Getting started

Make sure you’re a member of Hampshire Libraries as you’ll need a membership number and PIN to log in. If you’re not yet a member, you can sign up online or in your local branch. When you’ve got your membership number and PIN, find your nearest library with computers, familiarise yourself with our guidance on using public computers, and book your visit.

Navigating to Ancestry

Once you’ve logged into the public computer, a browser will automatically open to the “Go online” page. Select the “Digital Library” icon, and you’ll see all the online resources available for free in the library.

A screenshot of a browser opened to the “Go online” page

Scroll down and select the Ancestry button to be directed to the site.

A screenshot of the Digital Library page

Once you’re in

You’ll automatically be logged into the Hampshire Libraries’ Ancestry account, meaning you won’t need to register or sign in. Because this is a shared account, you won’t be able to build a family tree or save any records, but it’s a good resource to start your research.

Top tips for using Ancestry

Not sure where to begin? Professional genealogists Simon Pearce and Laura House have got some handy suggestions on how to get started.

  1. Original records often contain more information than the index, so look closely at any available images. You might discover exciting details such as occupations, witnesses’ names, and annotations in the margins.
  2. Be wary of common names. If your ancestor is called Ann Smith, you might find there are several baptisms that could belong to her. Pay close attention to details like parents’ names, occupations, addresses, and possible siblings.
  3. Remember spelling variations when searching for ancestors in the parish records. William sometimes appears as Wm or surnames may have multiple spellings. Use wildcard symbols, like an asterisk, to account for variations. They’ll also save you from searching for different spellings over and over. Take a look at Ancestry’s handy guide on how to use wildcard symbols.
  4. Always look for the names of witnesses on marriage records – they could be family members or close friends and may be able to help you learn more about your family.
  5. Always build up as much knowledge about the family as you can. If you’re researching a great-great-grandparent, for example, find baptism, marriage, and burial records for all their siblings. You may find a clue or unknown piece of information to help you with your research.

Titchfield parish marriage register for 1754/55. Titchfield parish marriage register for 1754/55.

There’s already a wealth of information available, with many more records set to be released, including Bishops’ transcripts, and Methodist/Wesleyan church baptisms and marriages. Get all the latest updates from Hampshire Archives and Local Studies with their newsletter. And to find out what’s going on across Hampshire Libraries, follow us on Facebook and Instagram, and make sure to sign up to our newsletter.