Discovering Links: Another 25 FREE Links for English Genealogy and History

It’s been too long since I did a “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, afterall it’s been aaaaaages since I did one that covered England. You can find my earlier post with 25 links here. These aren’t 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.


At present this site contains over 7100 transcripts, but anyone who has transcribed a pre-1900 UK will is invited to contribute to this site which is searchable by Testator, Executor or Administrator, or Witness. It is hoped that ultimately there will be a large number of transcripts which may assist family historians in their research and also those who are interested in local history and the families who lived in a particular locality.

Created by Peter Higginbotham, an expert in the field of UK Workhouses, he says ‘this site is dedicated to the workhouse – its buildings, inmates, staff and administrators, even its poets’. There are sections on poor laws, workhouse locations, workhouse life, the rules, the inspections, records, Workhouse museums, educationm emigration and a whole heap more.

Since we’re on the topic of workhouses, the Workhouse Network is another site dedicated to the topic of workhouses in the UK. This site brings together museums, heritage organisations, archives and universities interested in welfare history.

The Historic England website is a place that details ‘the most importnat historic places in England’. It includes building, battlefields, monuments, parks, gardens, shipwrecks, and more. They hold major collections of national importance, covering archaeology, architecture, social and local history. Their collections include photographs, drawings, plans and documents. And to make the collection accesible, they have over one million images searchable on their website.

This database provides information on the existence and location of the records of UK hospitals. There are details of over 2800 hospital listed, these have been compiled by the Wellcome Library, and can be found by searching the database. The data includes: the administrative details of the hospitals, and their status or type; the location and covering dates of administrative and clinical records; the existence of lists, catalogues or other finding aids.

The British Southern Whale Fishery voyage database includes information about all known British southern whaling voyages from 1775 to 1859. The Crew database contains nearly 14,000 entries for men who served in the British Southern Whale Fishery between 1775 and 1859.

The Railway Work, Life and Death project is committed to revealing the working lives and accidents of British & Irish railway staff, from the 1880s through to 1939. What was it like to work on Britain and Ireland’s railways from the 1880s to 1939? How were tens of thousands of employees injured or killed? Who were these people? The ‘Railway Work, Life & Death’ project has been delving into these questions, creating an important new resource for anyone researching railway history, family history, labour history
and many other topics.

Oriminal Ancestors is a project led by the University of Hull in collaboration with Leeds Beckett University, that encourages people to collaborate with details of the criminal past of their own families, communities, towns and region. Please join in with your stories between roughly 1700 and 1939, and tell the criminal history from your family or area of research. They’re interested in both the big and small stories.

This website is dedicated to the history of the 1830 Swing Riots, Convict Prison Hulks, Juvenile Convicts and the Bermuda Convict Establishment. Created by Jill CHambers, she has been researching this tpic for over 40 years, and while she does sell publiations, there’s plenty of useful information on her website for free.

The collection contains 689 trade and local directories from England and Wales from the 1760s to the 19a0s, with at least one directory for every English and Welsh county for the 1850s, 1890s and 1910s. Searchable by name, place and occupation this is an essential tool for local, urban and family history. You can find Kelly’s and Pigot’s directories here, as well as those by regional publishers.

This website allows you to search millions of convict records from both Britain and Australia, from around fifty datasets, relating to the lives of 90,000 convicts from the Old Bailey. Use this site to search individual convict life archives, explore and visualise data, and learn more about crime and criminal justice in the past. A MUST for anyone with convict interests, particularly those who were at the Old Bailey.

Was your ancestor a photographer? If so, find out more. Want to date your old family photographs? Try the DIY unique Photo Dating Wizard. Get information from the world’s largest collection of British and Irish carte de visite photographs and related data.

CLIP is a volunteer project, sall about the records of British merchant seafarers of the late 19th and early 20th century. The site provides information about the records of British seafarers and ships, and access to the CLIP maritime database. The original CLIP database reached over 260,000 entries from crew lists. The data was transcribed from records held at local Record Offices and covers only a small percentage of their holdings, but it’s the largest database of records from local record offices. This information is now of Findmypast, but there is still plenty of useful information on the CLIP website itself, which is still free.

Findmypast if one of the big names in the genie field, and currently they have over 14 billion records online, and yes, it is a pay site. But did you know that over 800 million of them are FREE to look at? Yes, they are. You will need to create an account (name and email) to access them, but you don’t need a paid subscription at all. Highlights of their free records include:

  • 1881 England, Wales & Scotland Census (transcripts are free)
  • British Newspaper (over 2 million pages are free to view)
  • All Irish censuses 1821-1911
  • Irish Roman Catholic Parish Registers
  • Britain, Campaign, Gallantry & Long Service Medals & Awards (transcripts are free)
  • All BillionGraves cemetery records
  • All Canadian censuses 1851-1911
  • Many other smaller record sets are also free.

Francis Frith (1822-1898) was an English photographer, and in 1859 he opened the firm of Francis Frith & Co. in Surrey, as the world’s first specialist photographic publisher. In 1860 he embarked upon a project to photograph every town and village in the UK, this resulted in his creating F. Frith & Co., a publishing company to print his photographs as postcards, and that became one of the largest photographic studios in the world. After the family old the business in 1971, it was relaunched in 1975 at The Francis Frith Collection. The site now holds over 330,000 high resolution digital images, from around 7000 cities, towns an villages of his postcard photos. You can search and browse all images for free, but they offer ability to purchase a copy of an image if you wish.

=== CHESHIRE ===

The Cheshire Image Bank is a collection of digital images created from original material: photographs, postcards, prints slides and negatives. These are held at the Cheshire Archives & Local Studies, the Chester History & Heritage and in Cheshire Libraries. There’s currently over 30,000 images which can be viewed online, but more are added regularly.

=== CORNWALL ===

This site has been created by the Cornwall Family History Society as a “tribute to the brave people form Cornwall who served or said down their lives in borh World Wars and subsequent conflicts”. This site grew out of the Society’s Monumentual Inscriptions project, as during the photographing of headstones they noted many war casualties remembered on family graves, some without names. This led to the further research of their names and a subsequent need to record them. The Society felt that details of those who had served and died for their country and had a connection with Cornwall should be collated in one dedicated website and be accompanied by photographs of the individuals and the grave sites … hence Cornwall’s War History. They also have recorded those who lie in graves in Cornwall but who originated elsewhere. To date the site has details of over 6100 individuals.

=== DEVON ===

The Devon Remembers website is a permanent digital memorial to those people from the Clinton Devon Estates towns and villages, who served their country in the Great War of 1914-1918. It is also intended as a resource for local historians, schools and anyone researching this era and the impact of war on the communities of East Devon and North Devon. It is hoped that over time that details from other Devon regions will be added.

=== DURHAM ===

The Durham Records Online is a collaborative effort between a group of dedicated genealogists and historians.They currently have over 4 million records online, all of which are free to search and relate to County Durham and Northumberland (England). These include parish and census record. Note, there is small fee to view record transcriptions.


This is a part of the Herfordshire County Council website, and it allows you to type in a name, and it searches through all their indexed records including: Apprentices, Crime & Punishment, Fatalities, Marriage & Marriage Licences, Miscellaneous Names, Newspapers & Periodicals, Newspaper Pictures, Nonconformist Registers, The Poor, Tithe & Inland Revenue, and Wills. Searching is free, and the results do give a reasonable amount of info, but if you want copies of the originals you will need to contact the County Council.

=== ISLE OF MAN ===

If you have an interest in the history of the people and area of the Isle of Man, here’s a site you’ll want to bookmark. It’s basically a collection of records that relate to the Isle of Man. As the creator of the site says “These web pages reflect my various interests, mainly archival, in things Manx.”


The Red Rose Collections gives you online access to and image archive with over 30,000 historic photographs digitised from the collections in Lancashire Libraries, as well as indexes to other resources, held at Lancashire Archives and libraries, such as old local newspapers, local books, Preston Guild Rolls and the Lancashire Police index.

=== LONDON ===

The London Picture Archive contains over 250,000 photographs, prints and drawings as well as over 1000 maps from the collections at London Metropolitain Archives are available to view online. The images provide an extraordinary record of London and its people from the 15th century to the present day. The whole of Greater London is covered, as are the adjoining counties.

=== SOMERSET ===

The Bath Burial Index contains over 240,000 entries from 86 burial grounds, with monuments dating from 1660 through to recent times.


The Stafforshire Asylums site, is a collaboration between the Staffordshire Archives and Heritage and the Wellcome Trust who aim to shed light on the history of Staffordshire’s three County Asylums; Stafford (opened in 1818), Burntwood (1864) and Cheddleton (1899). The project will cover the period 1818-1960. Their site has sections listing doctors, patients and staff as well as more information on each of the asylums themselves.

Happy researching 😉

Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge: A is for … A2A (Access to Archives)

You might think hang on, what is she doing. Is she starting the Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge again??  In short no, but let me explain. As I never actually did the letter A thanks to a lack of inspiration which lasted until about the letter J or so, and I really would like to complete the whole alphabet, I am doing it now. And I figured it was better to do it at the end, rather than right in the middle. So for my A post …

A is for … A2A (Access to Archives)

Some of you may have heard of the A2A website, others may not have. But for me it is one of the most amazing sites around.

Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge: O is for … Online Parish Clerks (OPC’s)

I found that coming up with something for the letter “O” of the Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge was a bit of a toughy, but finally found some inspiration, and would like to tell you about one of the websites that I’ve used a lot with my research.

(or OPCs as they’re more commonly known)

Online Parish Clerks are a group of volunteers who transcribe parish records, and make them available online for free. The main Online Parish Clerks website makes the statement that OPCs “… are volunteers who collect genealogical information about a specific parish and answer email enquiries without charge”. Sound too good to be true? Well, it is 100% true.