The Diaper Heritage Association
Genealogy - How to Research

Find out how to research your family heritage and what sources are available.

Genealogy Guidance & Resources
The Diaper Heritage Association has put together a comprehensive family tree with over 5000 entries and 400 photographs this is available in both book form and disk format, you can also order copies of Southampton in Song which has recordings of historic folk songs such as ‘Poll of Itchen Ferry’ and the free trail leaflet.

Click here to download the Diaper Tree Order Form
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Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund


How to Research

When starting out researching family history firstly start with family members, look for photos, copies of birth, marriage and death certificates and memories of older members of the family – but remember sometimes memories are faulty and will need to be checked against original sources.

What Sources Are Available?

Archive Offices

These can be found at local archive offices such as the Southampton Archives at the Civic Centre, The Hampshire Record Office in Winchester or the Public Record Office at Kew (all major centres will have archive offices). All the above have excellent web sites, great for initial research, and many documents can now be ordered on line for a small fee.

Local Registry Offices

Local registry offices are another source but the staff are not archivists and you generally need to pre-arrange visits.


Libraries and reference libraries are another great source, in Southampton there is a very good special collection within the reference library at the Civic Centre which has a large maritime collection including Lloyds Registers. There are also lots of special collections libraries and newspaper libraries and University libraries for example the Hartley Collection at Southampton University Library for local records, the Mitchell Library in Glasgow which holds the Lipton collection and the Illustrated News Archive.

Company Records

There are also company records such as those of Red Funnel who still hold their own archive, or Camper and Nicholson who deposited their records at Hampshire Records Office. The Ordnance Survey have detailed collections of maps down to street level and archive maps can also been seen at the archives and reference library. The sort of records that can be found at the Southampton archives include parish registers, electoral register, Kelly’s directories, merchant seamen’s index, crew lists, poor law records, school records, & hospital records. Many ancient towns like Southampton will also have a ‘records series’ where you will find published versions of original documents with editorial – very helpful if you are not used to reading medieval English or Latin.

Original Sources

If you are feeling brave there is nothing like looking at the original sources and if you are near a University or College you will often find they offer short course of palaeography, the art of reading old documents. With the development of film and photography in the nineteenth century there is now another archive source. At the Hampshire Record Office you will find the Wessex Sound and Film archive, here for example you can view the Cmdr Bird collection of family cine film and watch Tom Diaper sailing the Harkaway (the copyright however is held by the ITN archive). The National Maritime Museum also holds archive film such as the Rosemary Joy Collection of 1930s footage of J Class yachts, including Alfred Diaper on the Westward. The largest archive is the ITN Archive which includes the Pathe collection, there is a piece of film in this archive which includes the launch of Shamrock IV, Sir Thomas Lipton can be seen with the crew of the Shamrock 23 metre which includes at least seven Diapers.

Oral History Units

Southampton has one of the foremost Oral History Units in the country; previous projects on Thorneycrofts, the Titanic and the Second World War have involved several Diapers.


Beken of Cowes also has an incredible archive of black and white photos of historic yachts which includes the Alfred West Collection.

Local Museums & Galleries

Local museums and galleries are another place to search – they are always looking for volunteers, a great way to get to rummage! – we found paintings, photographs and other artefacts in the stores, there is always much more hidden away then is ever seen on display.

Church Yards

Church yards with their gravestones and memorials can also be an additional source of information, the HGS have listed a large numbers of these memorials and these can be seen at the Hampshire Record Office for Hampshire churches.

Family Members

If you are lucky you might have family members who have written autobiographies such as Captain Tom Diaper or William ‘Cannibal Jack’ Diaper – however old age might have dimmed memories or dramatic licence might have coloured the stories! Others might be poets such as William Diaper or become successful industrialists such as Henry Diaper or even a convict, Edward Diaper.

The World Wide Web

Nowadays with the web there has been a huge increase of interest in genealogy and there are a whole range of genealogy web sites that can offer help. Local history societies are another great source and there are a number local to Southampton who have information on the Diapers such as Bitterne Local History Society. There are also special interest groups such as The J- Class Association or the records held at Ellis Island, where all transatlantic crews had to register as well as those who were emigrating. Remember when searching that names may have been misspelled and some immigrants changed their names. Several American Diapers have preferred to be known as Deaper and the Diaper name is often mis-transcribed as Draper.


Click here for contact information on sources