People are being urged to explore County Durham’s past this week, by delving into the thousands of documents and records at Durham County Record Office.

Durham County Record Office is taking part in the national Explore Your Archives Week, which will run till 26th November. The aim of the week is to remind people of the incredible resources available to anyone interested in local or family history.

The record office’s massive archives span almost 900 years of history and occupy five miles of shelving.

The documents not only cover the present County Durham, but also take in the whole of the historic County Durham, which occupied the area between the Tyne and Tees until the county’s boundaries were redrawn in 1974.

Though the oldest records date back to the beginning of the 12th century, many documents are more recent and are of great relevance today.

People can use the Durham County Record Office archives to research family history, check medical records, view plans of their houses, investigate environmental issues and for many other purposes.

County archivist Liz Bregazzi said, “People would be amazed by the breadth of enquiries the record office receives on a daily basis.”

“The documents we hold can help people establish rights of way, prove their citizenship and even secure a school place.”

“Only recently, we helped someone secure probate on a property, where the house deeds had been lost, by supplying information from the electoral register.”

“Another member of the public came to us to research a war memorial and found a long-lost family elsewhere in the country.”

Volunteer Colin Wild with archivist David Butler

Durham County Council’s cabinet member for tourism, culture, leisure and rural issues, Cllr Ossie Johnson, said, “Archives are our collective memory, offering a written record of people’s day-to-day lives.”

“They provide unique access to our past, but are also of huge relevance today.”

“Durham County Record Office holds an extensive range of fascinating documents, covering a wide range of subjects and a large geographical area.”

“Explore Your Archives Week is the perfect time to discover the information that is so readily to hand.”

For more information about the work of Durham County Record Office, please go to To make an appointment, please call 3000 267 619.

(The featured photograph – one of many thousands stored in the record office archives – shows Pip the pit pony. Pip began his working life at Marley Hill Colliery then moved to Sacriston in 1979. Pip was later given to Beamish Museum, where he worked until 2009, when he died at the age of 35. He was the last surviving pit pony in Britain.)

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