Birth, marriage and death records are crucial tools for anyone researching their family history. Before 1837, when civil registration was introduced in England and Wales, church registers provided an important source of information on births, baptisms, marriages and burials.

The National Archives holds 5,000 registers of a huge variety of nonconformist congregations, including Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Protestant Dissenters (known as 'Dr Williams Library') and Independents. There are also registers from a small number of Roman Catholic communities. Basic searching is free of charge, but there is a fee for advanced searching and to download images.

The entries are rich in detail and may include material about up to three generations of a family, helping you to add many branches to your family trees.

As well as discovering details about your own family history, you can also find records of famous names from the past, such as Mary Shelley (Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin), Florence Nightingale and William Blake.

When the project is complete you will also be able to access further miscellaneous birth, marriage and death records from the series RG 6-8, RG 32-36 and BT 158-160. These include records of Quakers, of foreign congregations in England and of clandestine marriages before 1754, as well as miscellaneous foreign returns, and records of life events occurring at sea.