The Centre

A great space for society members and the public to use and to enjoy. It’s a lively meeting place and friendly focal point for everyone interested in heritage and history — including family, local and social history

The Centre is our only office. Our branches hire premises for any face-to-face branch meetings but do not have office space

Opening hours

DayTime
Mondays*
*except public/bank holidays
10:30 - 15:00
Tuesdays10:30 - 16:00
Last Thursday of the month10:30 - 16:00
First Saturday of the month10:30 - 14:30

Research

The Centre provides the area’s best family history research facility. Today’s researchers need to know how best to search for, organise and present information using digital sources and vital offline resources. It’s FREE to visit and informed advice and support are always at hand from society volunteers

Education

The Centre hosts a lively activities and events programme, aimed at widening researchers’ knowledge and deepening their understanding. Talks, walks, courses and workshops deliver updated perspectives and help place research findings into better historical context

Research Tools

FREE use of key online research tools improves prospects of finding that elusive ancestor. Each service offers different record sets, geographical coverage, search capabilities and levels of detail. That is why The Centre offers access to Findmypast, The Genealogist, the British Newspaper Archive and Ancestry’s national and international records

Print

For a small charge, The Centre offers A3 and A4 print services for research findings.

Events Programme

June 2024
July 2024
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Berkshire Family History Society
The Centre for Heritage and Family History
2nd Floor, Reading Central Library
Abbey Square
Reading
Berkshire
RG1 3BQ

Find us easily with what3words:

///sang.values.reach

+44 (0) 118 950 9553 (only manned during opening hours – but please do leave a message outside those times)

There are SIX branches across historic Berkshire ...

… providing friendly help and advice, key resources and information for your family history research — wherever in the world your ancestors came from

Meetings

Meetings usually take place monthly (except July and August)

Come to a meeting, join in and chat with other family historians. You will meet researchers of all ages – and at all stages — from newcomers to family history to the more experienced. Everyone is welcome — you do not have to be a society member to attend.

Each meeting features a topic likely to be of relevance and interest to all researchers. Speakers are experts in their respective fields.

Some branches are online only while others use a hybrid of face-to-face and online according to the season

Audience

This society and its Branches are not just about Berkshire.

The people you'll meet have research interests that range across the UK, even worldwide. Draw on their experience and advice, you'll be surprised at how much you can learn.

Drop-in advice sessions

Society volunteers run regular drop-in advice sessions at many of Berkshire’s libraries, including those at Abingdon, Bracknell, Cippenham, Mortimer, Newbury, Thatcham, Wantage and Wokingham

Details are given in the Events Programme

Collect your names. dates and questions, bring them with you, and get some friendly help and advice with your research and in breaking down those brickwalls - wherever your ancestors came from.

The society also hosts occasional open evenings at Royal Berkshire Archives in Reading, where you will find almost all of the surviving original records of the 'old' Royal County of Berkshire, including those for the parishes of the Vale of the White Horse, and Abingdon/North Berkshire.

Literature

  • Society branches often have a monthly newsletter.
  • Society members can borrow from a range of family and local history books from branches with their own libraries.
  • Some branches offer society publications for sale.

Events and Open Days

Meet society volunteers at outreach events held throughout the year in Berkshire and central southern England. See calendar for details.

The society usually supports regional shows like The Family History Show and family history fairs, open days and workshops staged by local organisations and nearby county family history societies.

An extensive Berkshire Search facility (including the publications mentioned above) is usually available on a PC at most outreach events too.

At these events, you can usually buy CDs and other items from the growing range of society publications, including:

  • indexes and transcriptions of original Berkshire Parish Registers
  • an index to Berkshire's probate records
  • full details, with photographs, of monumental inscriptions.
  • historic maps
  • directories
  • electoral rolls
  • calendarised Berkshire overseers’ papers
  • Berkshire coroners’ reports
  • Berkshire and the First World War
  • Berkshire War Memorials.

If you have ancestors in the historic 'old' county of Berkshire, transcriptions in the three Berkshire Baptisms, Berkshire Marriages, and Berkshire Burials CDs (containing some 2 million names in total) are essential finding aids. These CDs include parish records in North Berkshire and the Vale of the White Horse too.

Meetings

When

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Time

Doors open at 7.15pm

Parking

FREE parking adjacent to the Centre

Welcome

Non-members are welcome at Branch meetings and events. A donation of £5 would be appreciated.

Agenda

  • Most meetings feature a talk by a speaker who is a recognised authority on their subject
  • Q&A.
  • News items
  • Refreshments
  • General discussion

History

From Saxon times until 1974, the Royal County of Berkshire extended to the western edge of the city of Oxford, separated only by the River Thames. That river marked Berkshire's northern border and it is entirely fitting that Abingdon — Berkshire's principal settlement for so many years — continues to host the most northerly of Berkshire Family History Society's six local branches.

Other Activities

Abingdon Branch members provide advice occasionally at local events in and around Abingdon and Wantage. You can bring your family history questions to these sessions and get some fresh ideas and answers on how you can move your research forward.

From time to time, similar events are held at other locations in the area.

Check the events calendar to find out where and when you can next seek advice on your family history research questions

Projects are a vital part of the work of the society. They are  important in helping to preserve historic records and making information from those records accessible to a wider public. Without such project work, there would be few if any accurate indexes or transcripts accessible to for you as a family historian.

Examples of Abingdon Branch projects include the recording of memorial inscriptions in the churchyard of St Peter’s Church, Drayton, near Abingdon, with the transcriptions published on a CD, available from the society.

Meeting Location:

Long Furlong Community Centre

Boulter Drive

Abingdon

OX14 1XP

 

GPS 51.687976, -1.278497

what3words: ///guilty.life.comic

Contact

Any questions about Branch activities?

Contact

Dave Purling

Branch chairman

Meetings

Calendar

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Time

Doors open at 2:15pm

Parking

FREE car parking next to the centre

Agenda

  • Most meetings feature a talk by a speaker who is a recognised authority on their subject
  • Q&A.
  • News items
  • Short contributions from local members

Other Activities

Branch members provide advice at Bracknell Library, Town Square, Bracknell, RG12 1BH on the second Thursday of the month from 2pm – 5pm and at Wokingham Library, Carnival Hub, Wellington Road, Wokingham, RG40 2AF  on the last Tuesday of the month from 2pm – 4.30pm. 
 
Bring your questions and get help, fresh ideas, suggestions and answers on how you can move your research forward.
 
(Please check the calendar above for these event dates.)

Some members give talks to community groups, in return for a donation to help the work of the society.

To request a speaker, please use the Contact Box

Projects are a vital part of the work of the society, helping to preserve historic records and making information more accessible to a wider public. Without project work, there would be few if any accurate indexes or transcripts accessible to you.

Branch projects include recording memorial inscriptions in the churchyards of Ascot All Saints and Priory Road Burial Ground*, Crowthorne St John*, Wokingham All Saints*, Wokingham St Paul, Wokingham St Sebastian* and in Wokingham Free Church Burial Ground*.

 Find out more

available on CD from the Shop

Branch Meeting Summaries

Catch up with what you missed or remind yourself what was said, with summaries of the Bracknell & Wokingham Branch meetings

Meeting Location:

The New Priestwood Community Centre

Priestwood Court Road

Bracknell

RG42 1TU

 

GPS 51.421300, -0.764280

what3words: ///care.truck.expand

Contact

Any questions about Branch activities?

Contact

Sandra Barkwith

Branch chairperson

Welcome

Non-members are welcome at Branch meetings and events. A donation of £5 would be appreciated.

Meetings

What

No event found!

Welcome

Non-members are welcome at Branch meetings and events. A donation of £5 would be appreciated.

Agenda

  • Most meetings feature a talk by a speaker who is a recognised authority on their subject
  • Q&A.
  • News items
  • Short contributions from local members

Other Activities

Some members give talks to community groups, in return for a donation to help the work of the society.

To request a speaker, please use the Contact Box

Projects are a vital part of the work of the society, helping to preserve historic records and making information more accessible to a wider public. Without project work, there would be few if any accurate indexes or transcripts accessible to you.

The Computer branch is working on producing a CD containing transcripts and images of the memorial inscriptions in the churchyard of Woodley St John.

Meeting Location:

Contact

Any questions about Branch activities?

Contact

Gillian Stevens

Branch chairperson

Meetings

What

No event found!

Time

Face-to-face meetings begin at 14:00, doors open 13:30

Zoom meetings begin at 19:30, doors usually open from 19:10

Parking

Ample provision around the museum, but payable

Welcome

Non-members are welcome at Branch meetings and events. A donation of £5 would be appreciated.

Agenda

  • Most meetings feature a talk by a speaker who is a recognised authority on their subject
  • Q&A.
  • News items

Lending Library

Borrowing a title from our meetings at the museum is possible with advance notice, or at other times by prior arrangement by emailing Judith Thomas

View the books in our library here

Other Activities

Branch members provide regular help and advice sessions in locations across West Berkshire, including Newbury Library. See calendar for details.

The branch organises occasional trips to destinations such as The National Archives and county record offices.

Branch Meeting Summaries

Catch up with what you missed or remind yourself what was said, with summaries of the Newbury branch meetings

West Berkshire Museum

The Wharf

Newbury

Berkshire RG14 5AS

 

GPS 51.40152 -1.32134

What3words ///eggs.kinks.softly

Contact

Any questions about Branch activities?

Contact

Nick Prince

Branch chairman

Meetings

What

No event found!

Time

Doors open at 7.15pm

Parking

Ample FREE car parking on site

Agenda

  • Variety of talks aimed at
    • all interests and abilities
    • newcomers to experienced researchers
  • given by experts in their field.
  • July - visit to a place of local historical interest or to a museum or archive collection.
  • December meeting is usually 'home grown' - members share their own research, often on a linked theme.
  • Meetings start with notices and general interest items before our speaker gives their talk.
  • Afterwards there is time for questions and general discussion.

Other Activities

Reading Branch members provide help and advice at The Centre for Heritage and Family History — the Berkshire Family History Society’s base in central Reading.

Members give talks to local Reading groups and organisations, or provide help at advice sessions and events in local libraries to encourage and help newcomers and experienced family historians alike in their family and local history research.

To request a speaker, please use the Contact Box

Projects are a vital part of the work of the society, helping to preserve historic records and making information more accessible to a wider public. Without project work, there would be few if any accurate indexes or transcripts accessible to you.

Branch Members help transcribe original documents in Berkshire Record Office, for eventual publication by the society

Meeting Summaries

Where there’s a will, there’s usually an argument

Reading Branch meeting 29th September 2022 Speaker: Sue Ellis Sue took us on a liberally illustrated look at wills, what they look like, what terminology they include and what information they can give a family historian. Wills were first recorded by the ancient Greeks mainly to explain how to dispose of a person’s estate of […]

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02 October 2022
20 November 2020

Canal People – Joint meeting with Bracknell & Wokingham

Joint meeting 20th November 2020   Speaker: Martin Buckland   A canal is defined as an artificial waterway which may join up rivers whilst rivers are natural waterways. Canals have locks and need to be able to climb hills such as The Cotswold Canal for example which climbs 106.68 metres. Canals were good at moving fragile goods such […]

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Photographs and memorabilia

Reading Branch meeting 29th October 2020, conducted on Zoom Speaker: Members – Peter Caton, Richard Brown, Richard Croker and Graham Vockins Peter Caton chose a 200 year old jug which had been handed down through the family from an Aunt Emily. He had researched documents which involved not one but three marriages by one ancestor. […]

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29 October 2020
24 September 2020

Some Wallingford Crooks

Reading Branch meeting 24th September 2020, conducted via Zoom Speaker: Margaret Crook Margaret explained that her research into her husband’s family tree started before the internet and the computers had become the tool of choice it is today. From a family bible handed down by her father-in-law dated 1896 it gave her a start into […]

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The Colin Spickett Experiment

Reading Branch meeting 25th June 2020, conducted on Zoom Speaker: Mark Bowman This presentation was a display of how much can be achieved for free in a short space of time. Mark showed that starting only with a name (albeit an unusual one) and a rough date of birth, you can, using free, online resources, […]

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25 June 2020
28 May 2020

Jane Austen and the Thames Valley Connection

Reading Branch meeting 28th May 2020, conducted on Zoom Speaker: Joy Pibworth Joy outlined the family background of Jane’s life and the places where those people lived. She painted a picture of her parent’s lives and those of her close relatives. They involved places as far away as America, Russia as well as Oxford, Tonbridge […]

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A Caribbean Journey: experiences of researching Barbadian ancestors from the UK

Reading Branch meeting 27th February 2020  Speaker: Guy Grannum  Guy gave an interesting talk on how he came to research his Barbadian roots and the types of documents that can aid with Barbadian ancestry. Guys started researching for his parents 25th wedding anniversary, and discovered an international family covering South Africa, Gibraltar and Majorca. Unfortunately, […]

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27 February 2020
30 January 2020

Victorian Divorce

Reading Branch meeting 30th January 2020 Speaker: Simon Burbidge Simon spoke of his research into his ancestors who had been divorced by the time of the 1901 census. Prior to 1858 Divorce was subject to Ecclesiastical Law with basically consummated or unconsummated marriage. It required an Act of Parliament and grounds were usually separation, civil […]

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Short talks and quiz

Reading Branch meeting 12th December 2019 Speaker: Members There were two short talks by members, a Berkshire dialect quiz from Vicki and the traditional non-alcoholic mulled wine and mince pie courtesy of Rosemary and Angie. Angie Catt spoke about her great-grandfather John Gibbons (West) born in Bath who enlisted in the 12th Prince of Wales […]

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12 December 2019
28 November 2019

Birth and Death Certificates

Reading Branch meeting 28th November 2019 Speaker: Antony Marr Speaking from a background of an ex Deputy Registrar he gave an interesting insight of what can be found on these certificates. The rules surrounding these certificates are covered by a 150-page instruction book. Original certificates will have original signatures; the GRO (General Register Office) version […]

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Policing Reading in WW1

Reading Branch meeting 31st October 2019 Speaker: Tony Keep from Thames Valley Police Museum  Tony started his research to commemorate what was thought to be 47 policemen lost in WW1, but actually turned out to be 49. At the time of WW1 eight forces existed covering the area now known as Thames Valley force. In […]

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31 October 2019
26 September 2019

Putting Berkshire on the Map (Gough to Google)

Reading Branch meeting 26th Sept 2019 Speaker: John Leighfield John opened his talk with an anecdote about Einstein and his chauffeur which set the pace and delivery for the evening. He informed the gathering that the earliest maps were around 6000 BC from Turkey, then from 1400 BC Italian wall carving and then 6th century BC […]

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Photos and Memorabilia

Reading Branch meeting 27th June 2019 Speaker: Members  Four members talked about their ancestors and artefacts. Peter Caton continued a theme connected to Walter Hildyard the circus performer. This time the subject was his grandfather Charles Hildyard Todd of Islington. A check on the censuses found him in 1861 & 1871 with his parents. In […]

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27 June 2019
30 May 2019

The 1939 Register

Reading Branch meeting 30th May 2019 Speaker: Mark Bowman Mark explored the origins of the register and its uses in a highly entertaining and informative talk. On Sunday 3rd September 1939 war was declared, which received Royal Assent on the 5th September. 65000 enumerators were assembled for Registration Day, Friday 29th September to Monday 2nd […]

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Tracing your Welsh Ancestors

Reading Branch meeting 25th April 2019  Speaker: Gill Thomas Gill started by outlining the differences one might find when tracing Welsh ancestors. These are language, culture and geography. Parish records are affected by non-conformity, and migration. There are resources online to help. English language has been used since 1733, prior to that you may encounter […]

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25 April 2019
28 March 2019

Old Photographs: their identification and dating

Reading Branch meeting 28th March 2019 Speaker: Tom Doig  Tom started by suggesting it is more accurate when dating old photographs to look at the type of image created rather than the costumes worn by the sitters. His reasoning is that fashion does not travel very fast around the country and what may be fashionable […]

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The History of Reading Cinemas

Reading Branch meeting 28th February 2019 Speaker: David Cliffe  David opened by recounting that he had first given his talk, now updated, to our branch in 2014 after encouragement from us and the History of Reading Society which resulted in the publication of his book “Reading Cinemas: Picture Palace to Penny Plunge”. He recalled drawing […]

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28 February 2019
31 January 2019

Telling Tales

Reading Branch meeting 31st January 2019  Speaker: Mike Swaddling  Mike, a retired marketing communications manager living in Sandhurst, after full time work, he was able to follow up an idea inspired by his father’s memoirs to help retired people with their reminiscences. Over 10 years, he visited retirement homes and recorded first-hand stories of lives […]

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Meeting Location:

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

280 The Meadway

Tilehurst

Reading

RG30 4PE

 

GPS 51.453332, -1.029597

what3words: ///soon.winter.simple

Contact

Any questions about Branch activities?

Contact

Vicki Chesterman

Branch chairman

Welcome

Non-members are welcome at Branch meetings and events. A donation of £5 would be appreciated.

Meetings

What

No event found!

Time

Doors open at 7:15pm

Parking

There is only limited parking at the Church itself but there is a multi-storey car park on the corner of Victoria Street and Alexandra Road, immediately opposite William Street.

Welcome

Non-members are welcome at Branch meetings and events. A donation of £5 would be appreciated.

Agenda

  • A talk on topics of interest to all researchers whatever experience level, delivered by speakers who are acknowledged experts.
  • Q&A
  • Refreshments
  • Raffle
  • Monthly newsletter with details of current and future meetings and other family history events
There's an excellent lending library for society members who may borrow books, magazines etc or consult reference books. There are also some data CDs relevant to Berkshire research.

Other Activities

The Branch operates a number of regular outreach events each month, including drop-in sessions at Cippenham Library. See the calendar for more details.

Meeting Location:

Christ Church United Reformed Church

William Street

Windsor

SL4 1BA

 

GPS 51.480284, -0.610211

what3words: ///wisely.splice.plus

Contact

Any questions about Branch activities?

Contact

Leigh Dworkin

Branch chairman