University of Leicester eBulletin

Digital Search for Family History

March 2003
No 92

The University of Leicester has launched a new Internet site that will help people to trace their family tree.

Developed by Ralph Brown from the University of Leicester Library and Michelle Heap from the University of Leicester’s Computer Centre, the Digital Library of Historical Directories is available at the URL

Directories of counties and towns are among the most important sources for local and genealogical studies. They include lists of names, addresses and occupations of the inhabitants of counties and towns and also provide a wealth of detailed historical and topographical information, with successive editions reflecting changes in the localities over a period of time.  

The Historical Directories website features a fast and powerful search engine. Family surnames, occupations, addresses and other key words or phrases can be located easily and quickly to their exact places on pages within the digitised texts.

The website is also a part of a number of major national initiatives through the National Grid for Learning and the new People's Network/UK Online centres in local public libraries.

Dr Brown said: “This online national collection is bringing together a greater number and range of directories than any one library could provide. By October 2004, 500 books will be available on line from the University of Leicester Library’s English Local History collection and also from other important regional collections.

“Those who will benefit from these historical sources include not only academic local, economic and social historians, but also school students, amateur genealogists and members of the public.”

This project has been funded with the support of a £335,000 grant from the New Opportunities Fund (NOF), a National Lottery good cause distributor, through the Fund’s NOF-digitise programme, helping to put resources that support lifelong learning into digitised form. The NOF-digitise grant awardees are developing learning materials covering a wide range of topics including arts, science, history, geography, citizenship and community information for Internet access.

NOTE TO NEWSDESK: For more information, please contact Ralph Brown 0116 252 5204, 

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Last updated: March 2003
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