• Investigating the history of your house?
  • Tracing your family tree?
  • Following the progress of a planned development?
  • Wondering who built Oldway Mansion?
  • Researching the Marine Spa?
  • Looking for an old Ordnance Survey map?

Torbay Libraries can help you. The main collection of Local Studies materials is held at Torquay Library. The libraries at Brixham, Churston and Paignton have smaller collections covering general topics about Devon and works specific to the locality.

The service is available to everybody.as the majority of the resources may not be borrowed. Services on offer include:

  • Local Studies index to newspapers
  • Census information
  • Local parish registers
  • Family history and house history
  • People & places

Local News Card Index 

This service is an index to major articles in local newspapers. The newspapers are mainly the Herald Express and Western Morning News, however; where articles have been traced in other newspapers e.g. The Brixham News, Mid Devon Advertiser and Totnes Times, these too have been indexed. (Please note-the actual articles are not displayed, but may be held in the Reference Library's resources as hard copy or microfilm.)

The database has both current and historical content and roughly covers the geographical area of Torbay, but with some material on the South Devon area.

  Search - Local News Card Index Opens in a new window

Census Information

Torbay census data from 1841 to 1901 is available on microfilm or fiche at Torquay Reference Library. The exact area covered varies with each census, but for most years the parishes within a five-mile radius are covered. The 1901 Census covers the enumeration districts of Totnes, Newton Abbot and Kingsbridge, which includes Torbay, parts of the South Hams, and Teignbridge.

Census information can also be accessed via the Ancestry service, which is available via all library computers.

  Ancestry Opens in a new window 

Family History and House History

If your relatives came from Torbay or South Devon, the Local Studies section has various resources to help you: You may also like to contact the Registrar's service for information on local birth, marriage and death certificates.

Parish Registers

A number of records are held on microfiche. The material includes parish and non-parochial registers. The area covered includes Torbay and the adjacent area extending as far as Newton Abbot, Kingswear, Dartmouth and Combeinteignhead. Within this span the coverage is wide but not complete: The fiche are on deposit from the Devon Heritage Centre.

Death Notices Index

At present this is only complete for our holdings of the Torquay Times, although there is some coverage of other local newspapers and work is continuing; the index also covers a small, but growing, number of obituaries. The arrangement is alphabetical by surname.

Genealogical Research

Torbay Libraries is unable to undertake genealogical research on enquirers' behalf. The services of a genealogist may be secured at cost through the Devon Heritage Centre.

House History

If you are interested in tracing the history of your house, the Local Studies Library has the following resources:

  • Newspapers and directories: directories and some of the early newspapers contain alphabetical listings by street.
  • Houses database for Torquay arranged by name of property and/or street. This is a relatively new index and does not claim to include the whole of Torquay.

Are you interested in local people who have achieved fame, or in local places? Then why not take a look at the pamphlets in our Local Studies Education Series. These have been prepared by library staff and are intended for both students and the casual browser.

Agatha Christie
The local studies education series leaflet which discusses the life and works of crime writer Agatha Christie.
Brixham
The local studies education series leaflet which discusses the history of Brixham 'the mother of trawling'.
Charles Babbage
The local studies education series leaflet which discusses the life of Charles Babbage, 'Father of the Computer'.
A Century of Service
The local studies education series leaflet which commemorates the opening of Torquay Library.
Churston Ferrers
The local studies education series leaflet on the history of Churston Ferrers and Galmpton.
Cockington
The local studies education series leaflet which discusses the history of Cockington 'The prettiest Village in England'.
Global Geopark
The local studies education series leaflet on the Global Geopark.
A History of Torbay Library Services
The local studies education series on the history of Torbay Library Services 1907 - 2007.
Isaac Merritt Singer
The local studies education series leaflet which discusses the life of Isaac Merritt Singer, inventor of the Singer sewing machine.
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
The local studies education series leaflet on the life of Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
John Lee
The local studies education series leaflet which discusses the life of John Lee 'The man they could not hang'.
Maritime History
The local studies education series leaflet which discusses The Spanish Armada.
Olympic Regatta
The local studies education series leaflet on the the Torbay Olympic Regatta.
Paignton
The local studies education series leaflet which discusses the history of Paignton 'the town of golden sands'.
Pavillion
The local studies education series leaflet on the history of the Pavillion in Torquay.
Royal Regatta
The local studies education series leaflet which celebrates the history of the Torbay Royal Regatta and Royal Torbay Yacht Club.
Torquay
The local studies education series leaflet which discusses the history of Torquay 'the Queen of the watering places'.
Torquay United
The local studies education series leaflet on the history of Torquay United.