British Ancestry

The Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies was the first centre for Family History Studies.

A school for Family History was begun in 1957 and brought to Northgate, Canterbury by Cecil Humphery-Smith who founded the Institute in 1961. It offers a wide range of courses on genealogy, family history, heraldry and related historical subjects. With its formidable library and collections of manuscripts and research facilities, it is housed in fine medieval buildings

A highly acclaimed correspondence course is now available online and by post. The Institute also offers a selection of day, evening and weekend courses, all of which can be enjoyed purely as a means of extending personal knowledge of family history, or with the intention of taking the Institute's examinations and gaining recognised national and international professional qualifications. The IHGS runs its own bookshop, which can be visited in person or online, and offers the use of its extensive library to members of the public. Expert advice on family history and heraldic research is available.

The library of The Institute is housed in some six rooms in the building that dates largely from the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries. It has grown around the personal collections of its founder and first Trustee, Cecil Humphery-Smith, and from other donations and purchases, into an extensive working library. Now consisting of nearly thirty thousand items, much of the collection is unique. It has expanded over the years, now running the full length of the first floor, and occupying passages, and the walls of the lecture hall. It has many finding aids and text books outlining which records may be of beneficial use and where they may be found, rather than original records and transcripts. However, some transcripts of records have been deposited in the library over the years.

The collection has been formed to assist the tutorial staff of The Institute and to supplement and support the work of both professional and amateur genealogists and heraldists and students, along with those involved in the applications of these subjects. The policy of the library is to acquire source material that may be of assistance to them in the study of the history and structure of the family.

Visitors wishing to use the library should not come with the express hope of discovering their ancestors in one place. Visitors should be prepared to use the library as a step on their journey: to discover what work has been done before, to localise possible origins and to examine the various indexes and guides which are available to assist them in their work. Researchers undertaking a one-name study will find the collections here especially helpful. Once proper foundations have been laid researchers may find themselves in a better position to turn to record offices or to use the sources of a more specialist nature in the library. The indexes are of particular importance. They relate to sources referred to in journals and other collections as well as to abstractions from original material for Kent, Sussex, Hampshire, London and other counties.

Library opening hours are 10:00 - 4:30 pm. Monday to Friday and Saturdays when in house courses are in session. IHGS members have access to the library and there is a special rate for non-members. Since space in the library is limited, all members and visitors must make an appointment with the librarian so that it can be ensured that there is enough room for all who so wish to work without interruption or discomfort. A brief summary of the library collection includes the following material: Genealogical textbooks outlining research techniques Genealogical source material for each county Published census, probate indexes and marriage indexes Trade directories from 1677 to the mid 20th century Printed family histories and pedigrees Biographical dictionaries Professional directories School and university registers First edition Ordnance Survey maps Surname and Place-name dictionaries International Genealogical Index 1881 Census Index for England and Wales Guides to Record Offices and Archives Harleian Society and other Visitation Series British Record Society pre 1858 probate indexes Principal Probate Registry indexes 1858-1943 Peerage and Gentry directories Antiquarian genealogical periodicals European and American genealogy and immigration American, Australian, British and European genealogical journals Scottish Old Parochial Registers Heraldic dictionaries and armorials -including Siebmacher complete One of the finest heraldic collections Original deeds and manuscript documents Online research facilities For more information, please contact the Librarian on (01227 768664).
28 September 2008

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