ONLINE SOURCES FOR LOCAL AND FAMILY HISTORY
Zoe Lawson has gathered together a large range of research resources
While we all have to ‘Stay at Home’ we have an ideal opportunity to start new research or find additional sources for projects in progress. There seems an infinite supply of free online sites which can be tapped into, so there is no reason why local and family research cannot be continued at home. The following is a list of useful sites, some of which will be familiar to many, but hopefully there will be others that will be less well known.
Archive catalogues are always a good starting point and many online catalogue entries provide significant detail, though not a substitute for looking at the original document when archives offices re-open. Here are the websites of the larger archives in the area:
Lancashire Archives https://archivecat.lancashire.gov.uk/calmview/;
Manchester City Archives https://www.manchester.gov.uk/info/448/archives_and_local_history;
Liverpool Archives https://liverpool.gov.uk/libraries/archives-family-history/liverpool-archive-catalogue/
Not forgetting the National Archives which also contains Lancashire material https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/search
https://www.ancestry.co.uk/ and https://www.findmypast.co.uk/ are well known and offer a 14 day free trial.
https://www.familysearch.org/en/ is the largest site to offer free access to records from old censuses, birth registers, etc. It includes the International Genealogical Index (I.G.I.) which has parish records for several countries including Australia, Canada and the USA, as well as the UK.
www.genuki.org.uk This website doesn’t hold records but contains a vast amount of historical information that will help you find the records you need from anywhere in the UK. https://www.jewishgen.org/new/ Jewish genealogy website.
Births, Marriages & Deaths
The Register Offices in the county of Lancashire hold the original records of births, marriages and deaths back to the start of civil registration in 1837. The county's family history societies are collaborating with the local registration services to make the indexes to these records freely searchable via the internet at http://www.lancashirebmd.org.uk/
Free access to records of births, marriages and deaths for the whole of the UK is available at https://www.freebmd.org.uk/search. Note that not all records have yet been transcribed.
Parish Registers The Online Parish Clerks project for Lancashire aims to extract and preserve records from the various parishes and to provide online access to that data, free of charge, along with other data of value to family and local historians conducting research in the county of Lancashire. https://www.lan-opc.org.uk/
https://www.freecen.org.uk/ this site offers free internet searches of UK nineteenth-century census returns but it is a work in progress and only the 1861 census is complete for Lancashire. Other areas are covered more comprehensively.
Some local history societies have transcribed their own census records, e g. Tatham History Society has transcribed all the censuses between 1841 and 1901 for Tatham and surrounding villages. http://www.tathamhistory.org.uk/census-index.php.
Wills & Probate
https://probatesearch.service.gov.uk/#wills for probate and wills from 1858 to the present, though there is a charge of £3 for a copy of a will.
University of Leicester Special Collections has 54 trade directories for Lancashire online https://cdm16445.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p16445coll4
Historical newspapers provide online, easily-searchable first-hand accounts and unparalleled coverage of the politics, society and events of the time.
Lancashire Libraries offer free access to historic newspapers. Users need to enter the barcode number from their library card. This gives online access to national, regional and local newspapers from the eighteenth to the twentieth century, taken directly from the holdings of the British Library, which includes the Burnley Express, Lancaster Gazette, Preston Chronicle and other Lancashire newspapers.
The complete digital edition of The Times (London) from 1785 to 2010 is available free using the barcode of library cards from Lancashire (see link above), Manchester https://www.manchester.gov.uk/directory/127/online_reference_library/category/1219 and Liverpool https://www.readliverpool.co.uk/reference/
The Guardian (1821-2003) and The Observer (1791-2003) are also available free to Manchester Library card holders (see link above).
The London Gazette is a free site searchable by keyword which is useful for wills and probate, bankruptcies, information about companies, and records of military promotions and awards etc. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/
Mario maps. This mapping site from Lancashire County Council contains local maps and aerial photographs for the whole county. Some historic maps for the region are also available. You can select a location and then overlay historic maps, photographs and information. This site also provides interactive information on administrative boundaries and local census and social statistics. http://mario.lancashire.gov.uk/agsmario/
Online versions of old maps of Lancashire and town maps. https://www3.lancashire.gov.uk/environment/oldmap/
The University of Manchester's map collection can be browsed online. This collection includes over 250 mostly 19th century Ordnance Survey maps and over 150 maps of Manchester. https://www.library.manchester.ac.uk/search-resources/special-collections/guide-to-special-collections/map-collection/online-map-collection/
Manchester Library list other map resources available https://www.manchester.gov.uk/directory_record/212387/historical_maps/category/1367/view_all_collections
National Library of Scotland also hosts a good selection of old Ordnance Survey maps for the UK. https://maps.nls.uk/
Other digital sources
Lancashire County Council’s Red Rose Collection includes old photographs, a newspaper index to articles in local Lancashire newspapers from the 19th century onwards which are held on microfilm and in cuttings files at libraries across Lancashire. Note that digitisation of these indexes is still on-going, so this online index is by no means exhaustive. https://redrosecollections.lancashire.gov.uk/
Elizabeth Roberts Working Class Oral History Archive is published by the Regional Heritage Centre at Lancaster University and hosts the transcripts of interviews carried out by Dr Roberts and her collaborators during the 1970s and 1980s. The interviews captured memories of working-class life in North West England – specifically in Barrow-in-Furness, Lancaster and Preston – and are focused on the period from the late nineteenth century to the outbreak of the Second World War, and from the Second World War through to 1970. The archive can be explored in various ways and has a subject search facility. https://www.regional-heritage-centre.org/
The Long Long Trail is a very comprehensive website for researching soldiers of the British Army in the First World War, 1914-1919, as well as amount of background information. https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/
Books and journal articles
Internet Archive provides online copies of many local history publications such as the Transactions of the Lancashire & Cheshire Antiquarian Society, volumes of the Chetham Society and Eilert Ekwall's Place-names of Lancashire. https://archive.org/index.php
All articles from the Transactions of Lancashire & Cheshire Historical Society are available online from vol 1 (1849) to vol. 157 (2008). https://www.hslc.org.uk/archive/
Online access to articles of Contrebis the journal of the Lancaster Archaeological & Historical Society available one year after the initial publication in print. http://www.britarch.ac.uk/lahs/contrebis.htm
On the British Association for Local History site every issue of The Local Historian is freely available online dating back to the 1950s, apart from the last three years, which are restricted to individual members of the BALH. https://www.balh.org.uk
British History Online is a digital library of key printed primary and secondary sources for the history of Britain and Ireland, with a primary focus on the period between 1300 and 1800 but also has online copies of Victoria County History of Lancashire. https://www.british-history.ac.uk/
The following digital libraries https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/ and https://www.google.com/ and https://www.hathitrust.org/ have many key printed sources.
Courses and Tutorials
The National Archives run online tutorials, for example, a Latin tutorial at http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/latin/ and a palaeography one at https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/palaeography/a
Future Learn have a wide range of free online courses, some of which are history based such as Learning from the past: a guide for the curious researcher. Learn how to understand the past to explain the present, and get to know the amazing sources and resources of the British Library. https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/learning-from-the-past