If you really want to become an expert in your own family's history, you absolutely need to study the places they lived.

Studying local history will give you a great understanding of the kind of life your ancestor lived - you'll learn about the community they lived in, what their role may have been, and you'll experience the same monumental events that had them talking for years.

The beauty of learning local history is it serves a dual purpose - not only will you learn the amazing stories that texture your family history and make it much richer, but you can use your newfound knowledge to hunt down additional records.

Using the 1939 Register to Research Local History

Local histories note changing county or town boundaries and will give vital clues to where records can be found. By learning more about the community and your ancestor's role in it, you'll also uncover new troves of records that you otherwise may have overlooked.

And believe it or not, there's something out there on almost every town and county in your country, no matter how remote or small.

Among other records, there are two kinds of resources that are essential for local history research - directories and newspapers.


There are over 18 million global social history and directory records on Findmypast to help you make sense of your local history. Postal, telephone and trade directories are fantastic resources that paint a picture of what life was like in the cities, towns, and villages your ancestors lived in at any given point in time. Directories usually include lists of addresses so you can track an address over time and see how it's inhabitants and make-up changed.

Search Directories

All of our directory and social history records are fully searchable and you can explore most by keyword, location or name. With some collections, you can also browse from page to page, allowing you to what a town or village was comprised of hundreds of years ago.


Another great source for learning local history is newspapers, although they will give you a little bit of a different perspective. Newspapers write about contemporary events, whereas directories are usually in a listings fortmat.

Of course, newspapers contain information you won't find in any other resource and are probably the most comprehensive history book you could read on any locality. In any one of Findmypast's local newspapers you can expect to find information on visitors to and from town, legal notices detailing the settling of estates and land sales, and local business advertisements - all great insights into what a town or village was like way back when.

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