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Frequently Asked Questions


Q: I have never visited an Archive before what can I expect?

A: When you arrive you will be asked to sign the visitor's book. By doing this you are agreeing to comply with the search room rules, a copy of which will be displayed. Coats and bags are not permitted in the search room study area so a member of staff will allocate you a locker to put these away. Food and drinks are also not permitted in the search room and we ask that you use pencils only to make notes.

In the study area you will be asked for your readers ticket. If you do not have one you will be asked to fill in a temporary access ticket which is valid for one day. If you intend to use the service regularly you will be required to join the County Archives Research Network (CARN) by bringing in ID to obtain a reader's ticket. This ticket allows access to a large number of archives across the country and should be handed to archives staff at each visit. The ticket will be returned to you once you have finished consulting items, returning them to staff.

Staff will explain how to use the archives catalogues and/or indexes and how to order documents. Please handle all items with care and use book supports and weights where appropriate.

Q: How do I find out if you have the records I need for my research?

A: You will find a summary of our holdings on our website, but if you require more detailed information you can search our holdings using our online catalogue found on the related page Archives Record Search.  Keyword and advanced searches can be done or you can browse the titles of all our collections. New entries are being added on regular basis. If you cannot find the records you are looking for please contact us.

Q: Do I need to make an appointment to view documents?

A: If we hold the records you require for your research we advise that you make an appointment to view them to ensure that adequate space is available. Opening hours can, on occasion, be restricted at short notice due to staffing levels.

Q: Are there any volunteering opportunities at the Archives?

A: Opportunities are available on occasion to those with a genuine interest in archives and those who may be seeking a career in archives.  Contact the Archivist for further details.

Q: Do you hold national records of births, marriages and deaths and where can I order a certificate?

A: The Family History section of the Bury Museum Centre has a microfilm/fiche copy of the General Register Office (GRO) Index of births, marriages and deaths covering the period 1837 - 2004. You will need to book a film or fiche reader to view these. The index provides a reference number (volume & page) which is required to obtain a certificate from the GRO. A certificate can be ordered online, by post or phone for a fee.

General Register Office, PO Box 2, Southport, Merseyside, PR8 2JD
Tel: 0300 123 1837 

Bury Register Office also holds records of local births, marriages and deaths. Certificates can be obtained for a fee.

Q: What geographical areas do you hold records for?

A: We hold records for all parts of the Bury Metropolitan Borough (Bury, Prestwich, Radcliffe, Ramsbottom, Tottington, Whitefield and Unsworth). This does not mean all records relating to Bury are held by us, many are held by neighbouring archives services.

Q: Is it possible to get photocopies and/or take photographs of documents?

A: Photocopies can be supplied in most instances however every case has to be considered independently due to the nature of original records. Copying is carried out by staff, subject to considerations of preservation and legislation. A copyright declaration form must be completed before any copies are made. Where possible we will provide copies at the time of request, but where large quantities are required copies will be sent by post.

Customers are welcome to use their own camera to photograph documents provided that they complete and sign a self-service photograph application form and a copyright declaration form.

Q: How to I go about donating material to the Archives service?

A: If you are thinking of donating or depositing material please fill in and return a notification of possible deposit form - downloadable from the website. Please provide as much detail as you can so that we can check whether the material fits within our collecting policy. Do not bring or send any material in without having discussed it with the Archivist in advance.

Q: Does the Archives service hold local studies material?

A: All archives, local and family history resources are held at one location in the Bury Museum,. Moss Street.  Branch libraries have small holdings of local history material specific to their local area. 

Q: I am unable to visit the Archives - what research will you do for me?

A: Short enquiries can be dealt with free of charge, amounting to a maximum of 15 minutes of staff time. For example, this could be checking a church baptism register for a specific entry. Please provide us with as much information as you can. If more research is required, contact details of fee based researchers are on the website.

Q: Do you hold the baptism, marriage and burial registers of a particular church or chapel?

A: Bury Archives Service holds records of non-conformist churches only, the majority being from the Methodist or Congregational/Independent (now United Reformed) denominations. Church collections can be searched on the archives catalogue

The family history section of the Bury Museum centre hold microfilm copies of a large number of Church of England Registers and also some non-conformist registers including Roman Catholic. Some transcriptions and indexes are also available. Further details and listings can be found in the publication Routes: A Guide to Family History in the Bury area available to download from this website.

Q: Do you hold back copies of local newspapers?

A: The Bury Times 1855 to date and the Bury Guardian 1857 - 1935 (1862 missing) are on microfilm and can be viewed at the Bury Museum Centre. The Prestwich and Whitefield Guide 1921-6; 1946-81; 2002 to date at Prestwich Library (microfilm).  Radcliffe Express 1883-1900 (paper - incomplete); Radcliffe Guardian 1910-1933 (paper); Radcliffe Times 1899-1911 (paper),1912 to date (microfilm) at Radcliffe Library.
The Ramsbottom Observer 1891-99 & 1901-1950 and the Rossendale Free Press 2004 to date at Ramsbottom Library.

Q: How can I find out if my ancestor was buried at Bury Cemetery?

A: Registers of burials at Bury, Radcliffe and Ramsbottom cemeteries are held at Bury Cemetery Office. Staff there will carry out limited searches of these registers for specific burials, but longer searches may involve payment of a search fee.  A form is available on the website,

Q: Do you have any educational resources that can be used in schools?

A: The archives service has produced education packs for Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3 studies using unique records from archives collections.  The packs are free to download from this site.

Q: Do you hold street and trade directories?

A: These are available as part of the Local History section of the Bury Museum centre.

Q: Does the Archives service hold old photographs of the Borough and if so can I get copies?

A: The archives service preserves 15000 local history photographs. These are available to search at the Bury Image Bank website. The images are mostly of streets and buildings. Anyone requiring images for purposes other than private study should contact House of Images through the website.

Q: Does the Archives service hold workhouse records and hospital records?

A: Bury Archives Service holds Bury Area Health Authority Records for Bury General Hospital, Ramsbottom Cottage Hospital, Robinson Kay Home, Florence Nightingale Hospital and Aitken Hospital. Details can be found on our online catalogue reference A9

Records of the Jericho Workhouse - now Fairfield Hospital are held by Greater Manchester County Record Office (GMCRO). You will find a catalogue for the collection on the online catalogue reference A9/6

Records of Prestwich Hospital are split between GMCRO and Lancashire Record Office. Details can be found on both offices websites -

  • GMCRO - reference A/PRES
  • Lancashire Record Office - reference QAM/6

Q: I am trying to trace criminal ancestors - do you hold court records?

A: We hold records of Bury Magistrates Court for the period 1886 - 1954. Defendants would be tried here (without a jury) for relatively minor offences and could be sentenced to a short period of time in a local prison. Full listings can be found on the archives online catalogue reference A17. Access restrictions apply to these records, so please contact the Archivist before making a visit to the archives. Quarter Session records for the area (which heard criminal cases requiring a jury) are held by Lancashire Record Office.

Q: Do you hold old maps of Bury?

A: The Local History section of the Bury Museum centre holds Ordnance Survey maps for the borough from the late 1840's onwards. Some maps are also available in larger branch libraries. The archives service holds large scale (26.6" to the mile) tithe maps from the early 1840's for Bury, Elton, Pilkington, Prestwich, Tottington Lower End and Walmersley/Shuttleworth.

Q: Does the Archives service hold electoral registers?

A: All pre 1980 voter lists for the borough including poll lists, burgess rolls, parliamentary registers and electoral registers are held by Bury Archives. For Bury these date from 1877-1973, Prestwich 1939-1973, Ramsbottom 1951-1973, Radcliffe 1945-1973 and Tottington 1926-1973, (with gaps in most cases) no registers survive for Whitefield pre 1974. Electoral Registers for all areas of the borough from 1981 onwards are on open access in Bury Central Library.

Q: Do you hold census information?

A: Microfilm/fiche copies of the Bury Census returns for 1841 - 1901 are available for consultation in the family history section of the Bury Museum centre. To view these you will need to book a microfilm/fiche reader. Street and surname indexes are available. Free online access to the census returns for 1841 - 1901 is also available at Bury Libraries via the Ancestry website and Find My Past website. 

Q: Do you hold wills?

A: Lancashire Record Office hold most wills for this area for the period 1487 - 1858. They also hold the national probate index for the period 1858 - 1966 along with Greater Manchester County Record Office for the period 1858 - 1956. Applications for copy wills for this period should be made to York Probate Sub-Registry. To obtain a copy of a will from York you must apply in writing, giving the full name, address and date of death of the deceased; with the appropriate fee:

Postal Searches and Copies Department, York Probate Sub-Registry, York House, 31 York Place, Leeds LS1 2BA.

For information on wills up to 50 years old contact:
Manchester District Probate Registry, Astley House, Quay Street, Manchester, M3 4AT. Tel: 0161 240 5700

A small number of local probate records can also be found within some of our archives collections and can be searched using our online catalogue.

Q: Does the Archives service hold coroners records?

A: Records of Bury Coroner's Court for the period 1904 - 1971 are held be Lancashire Record Office and from 1971 - 1973 by Greater Manchester County Record Office. Coroners' records are subject to a 75 year closure period.

Q: Where can I find out about online resources for family history?

A: The libraries have a range of internet guides, one of which gives details of family history sites.

Q: Where I can find information on searching my family history, specific to Bury?

A: Bury Archives Service, with Local and Family History has publish a guide to family history sources called Routes. This is available on the website.

Q: How can I find out more about Archives that are not held in Bury?

A: There are national catalogues such as A2A and the Archives Hub which contain contributions from archives services across the country. Many Archives services have their own online catalogues. General details of the holdings of all Greater Manchester local authority Archives services can be found at Greater Manchester Pastfinder. Links to these sites can be found on our Records Search page.

Q: Where can I find contact details for another Archives Service?

A: The National Archives website contains a listing of contact details for Archives services called Archon.

Q: Where can I find information on careers in Archives

A: The Archives and Records Association website provides details of postgraduate courses and work experience opportunities.