Finding facts for your story
Family history is much more than just collecting names and dates. When we write up and present our discoveries, it is important to focus on the most interesting stories and put the tale in its context.
Fortunately, an array of free resources is available to help us - even if we have never set foot in the places that our forebears called home.
These are some of the places where we can discover more:
- A Vision of Britain Through Time - By searching for a place name or post code in the British Isles, you can check its position on a selection of historical maps. Digging down through the "units and statistics" section leads readers to the local population recorded in various census years and even to parish boundary maps. In some cases, there are links to historical writings that describe specific events.
- British Historic Towns Atlas - A high quality and easy to navigate gateway to atlases and historical maps that chart the development of historic towns and cities in England, Scotland and Wales.
- British History Online - Digital library of primary and secondary sources for the history of the British Isles, including many Victoria County History volumes.
- Charles Booth Online Archive - Searchable access to maps and notebooks created in Booth's survey of life and labour in London (1886-1903). It reveals, street-by-street, the character of London at that time.
- Google Earth - This free site can help locate places of interest across the world. “Street view” can often help in identifying specific houses and discovering whether one mentioned in a census schedule is still standing. By using the option to calculate the shortest walking distance between two places, you can usually find how far a person travelling between them on either foot or horseback would have had to go in past centuries.
- Images of England - Over 300,000 images of England's built heritage.
- National Library of Scotland - High-resolution images of over 160,000 maps from Scotland, England, Wales and elsewhere.
- Research Wiki - Over 84,000 family history research articles. You can search for topics such as particular places, types of sources and research methods. Users are encouraged to share their knowledge with others by writing fresh articles and augmenting ones that are already online. The site is well-stocked with maps, videos and illustrations.
- Wikipedia - Encyclopaedia with over 5.3 million articles published in English. Anyone can consult or edit Wikipedia, provided they observe the rules that apply to changes and producing new articles. The references for statements on the site are mainly secondary sources rather than original documents. Wikipedia is not perfect, complete or the last word on any subject. However, its range of coverage is enormous and if you spot an error it is not difficult to correct. Articles are acceptable only if the subject meets Wikipedia’s standards of notability . If you write an article about a person who meets these standards your contribution may well soar to near the top of global search engine lists for their name.
You can find further details of these and other resources by visiting our Free Websites section.
FFHS Archives Liaison
12 January 2017