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FAQs for Archives, Heritage and Photography

Questions about collections, appointments, ID required and how to start your family history.

How do I find out what collections you hold?  

Information on our collections here on the website. Just click on 'Collections' above to see examples of items from the collections in our online galleries. For more in-depth information about our collections, you can check our catalogue, which is also available online at You can also download the 'Dozens & Trails' app to see more of the wonderful resources in the Library of Birmingham.

Do I have to make an appointment to see material?    

Anyone wishing to use material in Archives, Heritage and Photography will need to contact us in advance of their visit, to check that the material they wish to see is available. Space in our reading rooms is limited, and retrieval of items from our secure strong rooms takes some time, so booking in advance can ensure you make the most of your visit to the Library. Please e-mail giving details of exactly what you would like to see and when you would like to visit the library.           

Do I need to bring ID?      

If you wish to view original documents, you will need to have a County Archives Research Network (CARN) ticket. You can use a CARN ticket that has been issued by another record office. If you do not have one already, you will need to bring with you forms of identification that include your name, address and signature. In addition, use of some resources in Archives, Heritage and Photography require you to be a member of the Library of Birmingham. If you are not already a member, we can issue you with a card when you come to the Library.                

When is the Wolfson Centre for Archival Research open?

If you wish to view original archive material, you need to visit the Wolfson Centre for Archival Research. The opening hours are Tuesdays 11am - 7pm, Wednesdays 11am - 4.30pm, Thursdays 11am - 4.30pm, Saturdays (1 in 4) 11am - 4pm. We are currently operating an appointment system in the Wolfson Centre. Please e-mail to reserve your study space and tell us what you widh to see.

What’s available online?          

Examples of items from our collections are available on the Library website: However, this is only a very small selection of the millions of items we hold. More in-depth information can be found on our catalogue, which is available online at

How much research can you do for me?      

 We are happy to check our indexes and catalogues to see if we hold the records you are interested in, or to answer general questions on subjects such as family history and local history research. We are not able to carry out detailed research on your behalf.            

Can I purchase copies of material?          

Digital copies of documents and other items can be requested when you visit the library. Charges depend on the use you wish to make of the item. Some items may be too fragile to photocopy, in which case we will suggest alternative copying methods that may be available.

Do you accept donations of records from members of the public?

We are very keen to add to our collections, so do contact us if you have any items which you think may be of interest. We only collect documents which relate to the history of Birmingham, its people and institutions, but these can include a huge range of items – from documents through to photographs, sound recordings, film and published material. If you are not sure, please contact us in advance of any visit. We are not able to accept all donations, but if they are not suitable for the Library we may be able to advise you on the best alternative home for them.                  

How do I find my adoption or care records?          

The Library does hold adoption records on behalf of the City Council. However, access to these is always via the Social Services department. If you wish to trace an adoption, please contact us so we can advise you of the appropriate procedure                    

How do I find a person I’ve lost touch with?            

The Library holds a range of records relating to family history, but many of these are historic and are less useful when trying to trace people currently. If you are trying to find someone, there are a range of other organisations who can help you with this e.g. The Salvation Army. 

How do I start my family history?          

We are happy to help you begin research into your family tree. Before visiting us, a good first step is to gather as much information as possible about your ancestors – including names, dates of birth, marriage and death, addresses, professions, and anything else you know about them. This information is vital in providing a starting point, and we can then suggest the best resources for you to use to continue with your research. Family history can be a very time-consuming process, but it can also be extremely rewarding!                


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