Local studies collections - resources for local and family history

Local studies collections

Are you interested in researching your family tree or finding out more about your local area? Derby Local Studies and Family History Library is the place for you.

Derby Local Studies and Family History Library collects, preserves and provides public access to information on Derby and Derbyshire.  We act as Derby’s memory bank, retaining information about ‘old Derby’ as well as collecting current material for the future. The local studies collection is reference-only, but all are welcome to come and view materials, and in most cases digital or paper copies can be made for personal use.


The library has one of the UK's largest and oldest collections of printed and manuscript material relating to Derby and Derbyshire. The collection was originally formed from two outstanding private libraries. These specialised collections have been built on ever since and today we continue expanding on this wealth of local studies material, with the objective of representing all aspects of Derby and its communities.

Local Studies

If you would like to find out more about your house, street, suburb, village or community the library will have a wide range of resources that you may find useful. We have original building applications and plans, large scale mapping, photographs and engravings as well as written records such as Rate Books, statistical information, trades directories and general histories that can help you discover more about your locality.

Family History

The library also offers a wealth of resources for those interested in their family tree. We offer free access to popular subscription websites such as Ancestry and FindMyPast from our public PCs. These websites provide national records essential for the genealogist, such as the GRO index of Births, Marriages and Deaths, Census returns, Military records and much more. In addition the library holds local records of interest, such as Cemetery and Crematorium records, electoral registers 1843 – present, local newspapers and trade directories.  In addition the library’s extensive index of Derbyshire  names can often take you straight to the information you need.

How to access our resources

Our primary objective is to support you to undertake your own research. The vast majority of the collection is now on Derby Libraries online catalogue. You can search this from home to help plan your visit or to obtain the library reference number for a specific item.

Visiting in Person

To get the most from the library we suggest you visit in person. If you live, work or study in Derby all you need is your library card – if you are not a member you can join here. Visitors from further afield will need to bring ID showing name and address.

Library opening hours, location and other details for visitors can be found here on the Local Studies Libraries page.

Online access

If you are unable to visit, we are making more and more of our resources available online:

  • View records for the vast majority of our collection on the Derby Libraries Online Catalogue
  • Local newspapers including the Derby Telegraph 1879 – 1950 and the Derby Mercury 1800-1900 are available for members of Derby Libraries via the eReference Library
  • View and download a selection of digitised items from the collection on Derby’s History, our online archive: Derby’s History

We also offer paid research services for remote customers with more specific enquiries. For details of how to take these up please visit our Derby Local Studies and Family History Library - Research Services page.

Are you proud of Derby and its heritage?

Would you like to take an active role in preserving and promoting Derby’s heritage? Come and share your interest and enthusiasm with like minded residents by joining Friends of Derby Local Studies and Family History Library. For more information about this group, you can contact Derby Local Studies Library on 01332 642240 or localstudies.library@derby.gov.uk 

Courses, Workshops and Events

We offer a range of friendly, informal courses and workshops for family historians. We also offer library tours and host talks and guided walks on a range of topics of local interest. Please check our events page for details of upcoming courses and events.


Bring your lessons to life with primary sources. The local studies collection has great potential to bring local relevance to many topics of study in the classroom. Perhaps the most obvious usage is for the history curriculum, but with such a varied collection of written documents, maps, statistical information and so on there is plenty of scope for finding innovative ways to support geography, literacy and numeracy. Download our free curriculum resources and find out how the Local Studies Library can support your school.

Get Involved

Share your own work

Would you like to share your work and see it preserved for future generations? If you have written articles, pamphlets, or books, taken photographs or produced video or sound recordings of local interest we can preserve your work for posterity and place it in the public domain for the benefit of others.

So if you’ve written about Derby or indeed if you’re a Derby person who has written anything that you are proud of, please download the Donations Form below and return it, along with your work to the library.

We would prefer to receive digital files rather than physical copies where possible. Smaller files (11mb or less) can be emailed to localstudies.library@derby.gov.uk – larger files can be submitted on CD-ROM or memory stick.  If you wish to retain your original items we are happy to make copies and return them to you.

Donate older documents, photos, film or audio

You may have an unwanted collection of local history books, or older material that has passed down through your family that has some historical significance, for example records of a family business or prominent local person.

We are always grateful for donations of material to help build the Local Studies collection. If you wish to retain your original items we are happy to make copies and return them to you.

If you have older or hard copy material you wish to donate, Please download and complete our Donations Form below and contact the library to arrange delivery/collection of the material.x

The Donations FAQs below answer some common questions regarding submission and copyright.

Donations FAQs

Thank you for considering donating materials to the library. Derby City Libraries appreciates the generosity of its donors to help us to continue to build the Local Studies collection.

Before you donate, here are some answers to questions you may have:

Am I really ready to give my items away?

We understand your donation may comprise materials that, while offering great benefit to the library’s collection, are precious and may have significant sentimental value to you. A donation to the library is based in a permanent transfer of ownership.

Once the library takes possession of an item, we reserve the right to decide how it is used. This may include transfer to another repository or disposal, in accordance with established policies and procedures.

Can I just loan you the material for copying and retain my originals?

Yes. This is actually our preferred method - to loan your material for a short period and take digital copies, allowing you to retain your valuable original documents. Please note, we do not accept materials on deposit or on a ‘permanent loan’ basis.

Is my material relevant for the library?

The library welcomes donations of materials to the collection where these ‘contribute to the knowledge and understanding of Derby’.

Your donation can be in a variety of formats; photographs, manuscripts, books, archival documents or digital submissions.

If your material covers geographical areas outside of Derby, you may wish to consider donating to an alternative repository for that area. We are happy to advise.

Can I donate on behalf of someone else?

Yes. If you are donating on behalf of someone, are you willing to act as a ‘go between’ to help the donor and the library complete the accessioning process for accepting the material? Our accession procedure will require a donation form to be completed and signed by the owner.

Can I access, edit or add to my material after donating?

Donors are granted the same right to access and use the materials they have donated as other customers. If you wish to add to or edit the material, this will need to be negotiated with the librarian.

Will I need to provide background information about the donation?

We will ask for background information on your donated materials which will help us with our cataloguing process and add value by providing context for future users of the material.

You could consider writing notes to accompany the donation before offering the material to us. Any information that explains how the material was originally used or organised will be very helpful.

I have a lot of material – is there a size limit on donations?

Generally, we want to accept all relevant donations. However, due to space constraints and limited processing resources, we are sometimes unable to accept all materials offered to us.

We may refuse your material where it duplicates items already in the collection.

Once the material is accepted, we reserve the right to break up the components of the donated material and/or dispose of any materials in any manner deemed appropriate.

I have objects as well as documents to donate – will you accept these?

While the library can accept donations of materials in document format it generally does not accept objects, except where these form an integral part of the documentary collection.

My material is in poor condition – will you accept it?

We have limited capacity to deal with materials that are in poor condition. Items with physical damage will generally be accepted, but may be rejected if we already hold copies in better condition.

Items with water damage, fire damage, mould or possible insect infestation cannot be dealt with on site, as we do not have treatment facilities available.

In these instances we recommend you contact Derbyshire Record Office, Matlock, Derbyshire for conservation advice.

My material contains sensitive or confidential information – can I still donate?

We will not necessarily refuse material on these grounds. We will consider donor’s requests for donated material to remain private for a set period.

Equally, how we allow library material to be used is bound by Data Protection legislation and we may be required by law to put access restrictions in place, whether or not this follows the donor’s wishes.

The library retains the right to refuse to accept offensive material and to dispose of unsolicited material.

My material only exists digitally – can I donate digital files?

Yes you can, provided the material meets our other criteria – for example it ‘contributes to the knowledge and understanding of Derby’.

I am the creator of the materials I wish to donate. Am I the copyright holder?

Yes, copyright belongs to the person who creates the work. This only varies if somebody else employed or commissioned you to create it.

I am the copyright holder. Do I retain copyright of my work?

Yes you do. you do not have to take any action to claim copyright over your work, it exists automatically. However, the library exists for the benefit of its customers and requires that all donations can be shared or re-used non-commercially. We will ask you as copyright holder to grant permission to allow us to do this.

We will not necessarily refuse material if permission is not granted – however we ask you to consider offering at least minimum permissions for re-use.

How do you control re-use of my work?

For donations of digital materials, we apply a Creative Commons licence which allows copying and re-use of your work for non-commercial purposes. This licence ensures that you are always credited as the original author in any re-use, and any re-user must ‘share-alike’ – the work they create from your work must be released on the same terms. Any commercial use of your work remains prohibited without your consent.

For non-digital materials, you will be asked to complete a copyright agreement that allows you to control how the work is re-used by others. We will ask that, as a minimum, you allow non-commercial copying by third parties. You can also choose whether or not you wish to be credited as author.

I am not the copyright holder. Can I still donate the material?

Yes, in most cases. In many instances a ‘fair dealing’ clause applies to material still within copyright, allowing limited copying for personal use. The material may already be out of copyright, or we may decide that the material is valuable enough to retain for future generations, once copyright has expired.

I do not know if the material is in copyright? Can I still donate the material?

Yes, in most cases – see the answers on copyright above.

Can I bring my donation into the library without an appointment?

We accept small individual items or collections into the library without a prior appointment.

For larger items/quantities please email the librarian with details of the subject matter, quantity and format and we can arrange with you a suitable pick-up point, date and time.

How do I submit my digital files?

You can simply email your work, together with a completed Donation Acceptance Agreement Form which you can find on our webpages. Alternatively, if large file sizes or a large volume of work is involved, you can use a secure file transfer service. Please email the librarian for advice.

Thank you for considering donating your items to us!


Derby Local Studies and Family History Library benefits greatly from volunteer support to help us complete vital ‘back-room’ tasks such as transferring our card catalogue records onto the library computer system, sorting and listing incoming donated materials or scanning and uploading items to our digital archive. Find out about our volunteering opportunities.