Share Your Knowledge

The Society of Genealogists welcomes your research!


A PDF of this leaflet can be downloaded for convenience

One of the great strengths of the Society’s Library as a source for family history is its collection of unique, original documents and research material.  From 1911, when it was founded, our Members
and other amateur and professional genealogists have donated documents and collections of their own research.  The Society’s collections policy, as agreed by its Library Committee, states that we welcome ‘original work and papers of genealogists and family historians as well as material primarily of genealogical interest which other archives are not interested in’.

A growing resource

Members and other genealogists whose families are not interested in their research should consider safeguarding the survival of all their hard work by depositing it in the Society’s Library. Once there it will be housed in proper archival storage conditions and preserved for future generations. The gift can be during your lifetime if you feel that there is no more that you can or wish to do, or as a bequest in your will. In either case, your collection will cost the Society money to catalogue, house and store and, as a charity, we would welcome a small (or large!) donation to help pay for these costs. This is not a condition, however.

Giving your research in your lifetime

If you wish to pass on your research during your lifetime, we ask you to sign the form attached to this leaflet transferring ownership and copyright in your original research to the Society. At some point in the future, access to library material may well be over the Internet and without a signed copyright waiver we would be in the nightmare situation of trying to work out if copying it for this purpose would be legal. This is our preferred option but at the very least we ask you to assign joint copyright to the Society during your lifetime and full copyright at the time of your death.

Leaving the Society your research in your will

You may prefer to leave your research to the Society in your will. In this case copyright is assumed to accompany the gift of the original research. You can either ask your solicitor to put a paragraph to this effect in your will or use the sample codicil attached to this leaflet. In either case please discuss this with your family and make it clear what your wishes are. We will happily accept your genealogical reference books along with your research. Executors dealing with research collections not specifically willed to the Society and not wanted by the family should sign the attached form assigning copyright to the Society.

Preparing your research for deposit in the Library

Few collections when they arrive at the SoG are ready to go on the shelves. They need work to ensure that they can easily be used by readers and that the documents themselves are preserved in good order. We rely on volunteers to do this work and there is a considerable backlog of collections requiring attention.

All researchers choose to organise their material in a way that suits them. This may not, however be suitable for its long-term preservation. So if you are in a position to prepare your material in advance of its arrival at the Society, it would greatly help us if you could observe the following guidance:

1.    Please label notebooks, folders, etc with your name and a simple description of the contents, e.g. ‘Simon Fowler. Belcher notes’

2.    Please remove any loose notes or documents from storage files or plastic envelopes and store them in clearly labelled card folders.

3.    Do not use adhesive tape, paper clips or staples to keep papers together, as they will ultimately decay or rust, leaving a nasty mess which may take a considerable time to repair or cause information to be lost.

4.    Papers should be unfolded and kept flat, as far as possible.

5.    We are only interested in original research, so in order to maximise precious space, obviously duplicate material will be thrown away. Published leaflets, booklets, etc will be removed and either added to the Society’s holdings or sold.

6.    We would appreciate a short introduction to the collection and a list of what is coming to the Society and you will be required to complete a Special Collections Genealogical Deposit Agreement. This can be of considerable help to both the people sorting the material and to users.

7.    Finally, please be sure that you have removed any personal or financial papers from the papers you are donating which you would not wish other people to see. Please bear in mind that some material about your immediate family may cause considerable pain or embarrassment to those who might see it.

To have the information organised is ideal, but don’t worry if your research isn’t neat and tidy, we will still take it!

If you are thinking of depositing material with the Society's Library we will need to know the following:-


Description of deposit offered to the Society of Genealogists


  • Format
  • Please give the number of each and a brief description. eg. Files - 2 - Laver family of Somerset & Davis family of Somerset & London - 17th-19th centuries
  • Number Description (cont. on another sheet if necessary) Time period (approx.)
  • Boxes
  • Files
  • Card indexes
  • Family trees
  • Notebooks
  • Photo albums
  • Photos (loose) approx.
  • Other eg. medals


  • Digital media
  • Computer on which files were created: PC , MAC, CD-ROM, DVD, Other
  • No of discs
  • Program, version number & brief description of content
  • Program type Program & version no. Description (cont. on another sheet if necessary) Time period (approx.)
  • Genealogy program (GEDCOM preferred)
  • Wordprocessor (RTF preferred)
  • Spreadsheet
  • Database
  • Other

If providing  a file from a genealogy programme other than GEDCOM, please provide the software, discs information and /or instruction manuals and any other information which you think might be of use


What will happen to your research?

There are a number of collections within the library at the Society of Genealogists to which your donation may be added:

•    In our Topographical Document Collection we have original court baron minutes, deeds and other local material which came to us in the days before the creation of county record offices.
•    The Surname Document Collection contains miscellaneous original documents such as copies of wills, birth, marriage and death certificates, autograph letters and also research notes and pedigrees.
•    The Special Collections are more substantial and consist of work done by an individual on his or her own ancestry, by professional and semi-professional genealogists on families they have researched, by one-namers and those interested in a particular subject area such as a county or religious denomination etc.
•    Pedigree Rolls are family trees that have been extracted from the other collections and rolled to preserve them. They vary greatly in size from an A3 sheet of paper to rolls many feet in length.

Pedigree Rolls and some Special Collections however are kept behind the scenes, mainly for reasons of space, and readers have to ask at the Lower Library Counter if they want to see this material. An index of the surnames represented in the Document Collections and the Pedigree Rolls can be found in the ‘Search Records’ section of the Society’s website and a card index to the surnames represented in the Special Collections can be found in the Lower Library of the SoG.

The Society’s collections policy has led to us taking ‘material primarily of genealogical interest which other archives are not interested in’.  Collections which we rescued when they were rejected by national, local or specialist archives include the Civil Service evidences of age, the Bank of England wills volumes, the Great Western Railway probate registers and the Teachers’ Registration Council registers.


The Society is grateful for offers to donate collection of genealogical research material to its Library.

This clarifies the basis on which we accept it.

It should be on the basis that all property and intellectual rights (including copyright) in the material pass unconditionally to the Society. We also need assurance that, to the best of all knowledge, no rights in the material belong to any other body or person.

The Society needs to have full power (either itself or in association with any other body or person) to record or reproduce the material in any form whatsoever, including forms not yet invented.

The Society must have full power to transfer any material to other libraries or repositories or to otherwise dispose of any items which are, in the unfettered opinion of the Society, already represented in its collections, adequately recorded elsewhere or otherwise unsuitable for retention by the Society or study by its members and visitors.

Donors will be asked to confirm that the material is being offered to (and accepted by) the Society on the above terms by signing and returning a collection deposit agreement which can be sent by letter or email from Librarian@sog,


If you wish to bequeath material to the Society then the following outline codicil will be of help


Codicil to a will for the purpose of bequests to the Society of Genealogists

I give to the Society of Genealogists of 14 Charterhouse Buildings, Goswell Road, London EC1M 7BA (a charity incorporated with limited liability) absolutely and free of all taxes and duties payable by reason of my death

a) the sum of ..................................pounds (£......................)

b) all those of my genealogical and family history books, papers and other like records, including any that may be in electronic or digital form, together with all my property and intellectual rights therein and the right for the said Society (either itself or in association with any other body or person) to record or reproduce the material in any form whatsoever including forms not yet invented whether for archival or commercial purposes and with full power to transfer all or any thereof to other libraries or repositories or to otherwise dispose of any which are in the unfettered opinion of the said Society already represented in its collections, adequately recorded elsewhere or otherwise unsuitable for retention by the said Society or for study by its members

c) the copyright in all my genealogical writings

© Society of Genealogists 2017
This document was revised by Amelia Bennett on behalf of the Library Committee (orignally revised and edited by Sue Gibbons and Else Churchill, 2012)

Help Getting Started


The Society's Record Guides introduce the sources that will help you with your family history

View all Record Guides

Index to documents


See if the Society holds any documents for the surnames you are researching.

View full index

Index to pedigrees


See if the Society holds a pedigree for the surname you are researching

View full index

Index to Birth Briefs


Are any other Society members researching the same surnames as you?

View full index