Friday, 27 March 2009

London records released on Ancestry

Yesterday I was at the Guildhall in London to witness the official launch of the new London Historical records series from Ancestry (

The event was fronted by Time Team's Tony Robinson, and focussed on the release of records digitised from the holdings of the London Metropolitan Archives. The first wave of the release concerns records of the Board of Guardians, who administered London's workhouses, and kept records of all births, deaths and discharges for the institutions (known as 'poorhouses' in Scotland), as well as records for workhouse infirmaries for 'lunatics'. In total, of the 31,475 items held by the LMA on Greater London's Board of Guardians, some 23,000 were registers, now all digitised. If your ancestor went south, it might just be worth a look. Some 70% of enquiries received by the LMA concern these particular records, and hence why they were prioritised in the first release. For Tony Robinson himself, this release had a particular resonance - his great grandmother died in a London workhouse in 1901, which to him brought home how recent these institutions really were in their existence.

When complete in late 2010, the Ancestry/LMA collaboration will see the release of some 77 million records from the 1500s to the 1900s, with Ancestry's senior vice-president Josh Hanna claiming that one in two Britons will find a connection. Future releases will include 10,000 Greater London parish registers, as well as bishops' transcripts, poor law records, non-conformist registers, school records, land tax, electoral registers and poll books from 1881 to 1965, wills and more. The entire project will be as monumental in its impact as the English 1901 census release was when it first went online a few years ago.

* Whilst at the event, I picked up a press pack, and buried away within that was another announcement concerning the British Army World War One Service and Pension records from 1914-1920. The records have been released slowly over the last year, and the pack states that the total release will be completed by 'late 2009'.

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