Discovering Links: 25 FREE Links for English Genealogy and History

Discovering Links: 25 FREE Links for English Genealogy and History

Here’s another of my “Discovering Links” post. These posts consist of a collection of links that I have discovered, or found useful, and want to share with others. But rather than simply giving you a whole batch of random links each time, I am grouping them by Australian state, country or topic. You can see my previous Discovering Links posts here.

For this one I’ve decided to share my English links (together with a few covering specific counties). It is not intended to be an exhaustive collection of links (not by a long shot), but they are simply ones that many will find useful, and it may include some that you may not have known about.

And while many people think that genealogy costs a lot of money, let me tell you that all of the links below are free. Personally I find that it’s often a matter of knowing where to look beyond the big-name websites, and hopefully this will help with that.

=== ENGLAND GENERAL ===

PORTRAIT AND STUDIO PHOTOGRAPHERS IN THE UK: 19th AND EARLY 20th CENTURY
A work-in-progress site, this site has a database collection of details of portrait and studio photographers from a number of English counties.

GEOGRAPH
This is not a website with historical content, but rather one that is recording the present for the future. The Geograph Britain and Ireland project aims to collect geographically representative photographs and information for every square kilometre of Great Britain and Ireland, and you can be part of it.

GENEALOGY DOCUMENTS
This is a website that has grown out of a passion for collecting and transcribing historical documents. With a comprehensive place and surname index it makes it easy to see if there is any name or place of interest covered by those already transcribed.

HERALDS’ VISITATIONS
The Visitations (as they are known) contain pedigree charts, and in many cases coats of arms, of families documented when the Heralds visited each county, from the early 16th century through to the late 17th century. The Heralds were responsible for ensuring that people claiming to be able to use a coats of arms were actually entitled to do so, through either being granted their own arms or being directly descended in the male line from an ancestor to whom they had been granted. You’ll find the Visitation records for numerous counties listed here, available to view online.

THEGENEALOGIST’S IMAGE ARCHIVE
You’ve probably heard of the TheGenealogist website. It’s another pay/subscription site for UK records. But do you know about the thousands of vintage photographs they have online, and they’re free. And there’s no subscription required for them.

WELLCOME IMAGES
The Wellcome Trust Library has followed the British Library’s lead and made a huge collection (over 100,000 images), available online completely free. As these images have been released under a Creative Commons permit, that even allows commercial use without a fee as long as it is acknowledged. Amongst their collection you’ll find manuscripts, paintings, etchings, early photos, adverts, anatomical drawings, satirical cartoon and a whole heap more.

CHILDREN’S HOMES
The Children’s Homes website aims to provide information on all the many and varied institutions that became home for thousands of children and young people in Britain. They range from orphanages, homes for those in poverty, or with special needs, through to reformatories, industrial and approved schools, training ships, and hostels. As well as each home’s location, history etc. the site includes many maps, census listings, and historic images of the buildings and their inmates. You can browse for a particular institution, or use the search box.

THE COUNTY SURVEYS OF GREAT BRITAIN 1793-1817
The County Surveys of Great Britain, which were commissioned by the Board of Agriculture, are the earliest surveys of their kind in the world. They recorded comprehensive information on the agriculture, rural economy and political economy of each county in Great Britain between 1793 and 1817. They provide a unique insight into the innovation and agricultural improvement during a significant period in the making of Britain as the first industrial nation. Despite its remarkable historical interest, this resource is currently under-used because very few surveys are available in digital format, and printed copies are difficult to locate and access. Some titles listed on this site are available to view online, others give a reference to the organisation who hold the original so you can view it there.

CLERGY OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND DATABASE
The Clergy of the Church of England Database 1540-1835 (CCEd), launched in 1999 it makes available and searchable the principal records of clerical careers from over 50 archives in England and Wales with the aim of providing coverage of as many clerical lives as possible from the Reformation to the mid-nineteenth century.

BRITISH RED CROSS MUSEUM AND ARCHIVES
The British Red Cross museum and archives contain a fascinating collection of records from its beginnings in 1870 … even includes audio visual items in their collection.

GENGUIDE
The idea behind the GenGuide is to offer beginners and experienced genealogists and family historians an easy and convenient way to find descriptions of and information on (mostly UK) genealogical sources. Keeping track of developments in new databases, web sites and reference books is a challenge and one of the aims of the GenGuide is to provide a facility where these resources are easily and quickly found.

ENGLAND’S IMMIGRANTS 1330-1550
England’s Immigrants 1330-1550 is a fully-searchable database containing over 64,000 names of people known to have migrated to England during the period of the Hundred Years’ War and the Black Death, the Wars of the Roses and the Reformation. The information within this database has been drawn from a variety of published and un-published records such as taxation assessments, letters of denization and protection, and a variety of other licences and grants, and offers a valuable resource for anyone interested in the origins, destinations, occupations and identities of the people who chose to make England their home during this turbulent period.

BRITISH FIRE INSURANCE MAPS
The British Library holds a comprehensive collection of fire insurance plans produced by the firm Charles E. Goad Ltd. dating back to 1885. These maps were made for most important towns and cities of the British Isles, and are invaluable sources of detailed information about urban areas and town centres.

HEARTH TAX ONLINE
The hearth tax was levied between 1662 and 1689 on each householder according to the number of hearths (fireplaces) in his or her dwelling. Hearth Tax Online is a web site dedicated to providing data and analysis of the records of the hearth tax which was introduced in England and Wales by the government of Charles II in 1662.

=== DURHAM ===

DURHAM MINING MUSEUM
A continual work in progress, this website has a index of over 325,000 names covering miners not only from Durham, but also the Northern part of England which encompasses Durham (DUR), Northumberland (NBL), Cumberland (CUL), Westmorland (WES) and the Ironstone mines of North Yorkshire (NRY).

 

=== ESSEX ===

ESSEX AND SUFFOLK SURNAMES
This is a website that has grown out of personal research. Covering transcriptions of wills, settlement certificates, removal orders, examinations, etc. from both Essex and Suffolk, this is not a huge site, but it certainly one to check out if you have ancestors from these counties.

ESSEX ARCHIVES ONLINE
Seax is the program used by the Essex Record Office (ERO) to search their collection.
It contains written descriptions of every item in the archive, but does not contain the full text of the documents themselves. And some entries have a digital image of the document, picture or map, but not all.

 

=== HEREFORDSHIRE ===

HEREFORDSHIRE HISTORY
Images, newspapers, cemetery records, maps, and other resources illustrating the history of Herefordshire.

=== HERTFORDSHIRE ===

HERTFORDSHIRE BURIALS AND MEMORIALS
This site contains over 30,000 photographs of graves and monuments in mid- Hertfordshire, including Essendon, Hatfield, Hertford, Hitchin, Lemsford, Northaw, Potters Bar, Redbourne, Sandridge, St. Albans, Stevenage, Welwyn Garden City, and Wheathampstead. You can search the database by surname, which returns all records with links to the picture of each grave.

 

=== LANCASHIRE ===

LANCASHIRE BMD RECORDS
With 5 million births, 4 million marriages and 5 million deaths from people in Lancashire this is a site to visit if you have ancestors in this county.

LANCASHIRE ONLINE PARISH CLERK (OPC)
Currently listing over 8.3 millions records, this site aims to extract and preserve the records from parishes in Lancashire and to provide online access to that data FREE of charge, along with other data of value to family and local historians.

=== LONDON ===

PHOTOLONDON
PhotoLondon is a database of 19th-century photographers and associated trades in London between the period 1841 and 1901. It is a gateway to London’s public photograph collections. While the database is no longer being added to, there is still a vast collection of information on the website.

LONDON GAZETTES (and Edinburgh and Belfast)
The Gazette has been at the heart of British public life for almost 350 years. As the first official journal of record and the newspaper of the Crown, The Gazette became an authoritative and reliable source of news, and conveyed important news to those overseas.

LOCATING LONDON’S PAST
This website allows you to search a wide body of digital resources relating to early modern and eighteenth-century London, and to map the results on to a fully GIS (geographic information systems) compliant version of John Rocque’s 1746 map.

MAP OF EARLY MODERN LONDON
The Map of Early Modern London is comprised of four distinct projects: a digital edition of the 1561 Agas woodcut map of London; an Encyclopedia and Descriptive Gazetteer of London people, places, topics, and terms; a Library of marked-up texts rich in London toponyms; and a versioned edition of John Stow’s Survey of London. These four projects draw data from MoEML’s five databases: a Placeography of locations (e.g., streets, sites, playhouses, taverns, churches, wards, and topographical features); a Personography of early modern Londoners, both historical and literary; an Orgography of organizations (e.g., livery companies and other corporations); a Bibliography of primary and secondary sources; and a Glossary of terms relevant to early modern London. All of the files in our databases use a common TEI tagset that enables us to work with primary and secondary texts simultaneously. The Map allows users to visualize, overlay, combine, and query the information in the MoEML databases that populate the Encyclopedia, Library, and Stow editions.

Happy researching 😉

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