England, Local Histories, Record Societies (National Institute)

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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course English: Education,Health and Contemporary Documents  by Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Local Topography and History[edit | edit source]

On general, geography describes continents and countries, chorography describes counties, and topography covers the detailed description of towns, villages and even small hamlets. Hey has an excellent survey of the tradition of antiquarian writing in England dating back to the Middle Ages. It encompasses quite a range of publications and those of most use to the genealogist are summarized below.

Chart: Seminal Topographical Events
[edit | edit source]

John Leland 1533
England first great topographer appointed official King’s Antiquary. Collected materials for a chorography of England.
Christopher Saxton 1574-1579
First series of county maps published.
William Lambarde

First chorography of a single county,A Perambulation of Kent.

Ralph Holinshed
Chronicle of England, Scotlande and Irelande
Society of Antiquaries originally founded.
John Norden
Collected material for much of southern
England but only published Middlesex (1592) and Hertfordshire (1598)
John Stow
1598 - 1640
Survey of London, the first urban history
John Hooker
Written 1598
Description of the Citie of Excester, the 2nd town history (1st published in 20th century)
Thomas Nash
The third town history, Nashes Lenten Stuffe, containing the description and first procreation and increase of the towne of Great Yarmouth in Norfolk.
Richard Carew
Survey of Cornwall
John Speed
Used Norden’s material to compile his series of 54 county maps
William Burton
Description of Leicester Shire
William Somner
Antiquities of Canterbury, the 4th urban history
Richard Butcher
The Survey and Antiquities of the Towne of Stamford, 5th town history
William Gray
Chorographia: A Survey of Newcastle upon Tyne, 6th town history
Sir William Dugdale
Antiquities of Warwickshire which contained much genealogy and heraldry.
Robert Thoroton
The Antiquities of Nottinghamshire containing much genealogy and heraldry.
Rev White Kennett 1695
First parish history, but mainly of church and legal matters,Parochial Antiquities Attempted in the History of Ambrosden, Burcester & Other Adjacent Parts
Richard Gough
Antiquities and Memoyres of the Parish of Myddle, a history of all the families in the parish based on church seating plan.
Ralph Thoresby
Ducatus Leodiensis, a topography of Leeds
Society of Antiquaries re-founded.
Thomas Gent
The Antient and Modern History of the Famous City of York
Many more city and town histories published.
Richard Gough
British Topography
John Hutchins
The History and Antiquities of the County of Dorset containing many pedigrees.
Edward Hasted
History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent
Rev Gilbert White
The Antiquities of Selborne
John Nichols
History and Antiquities of the County of Leicester
Robert Surtees
The History and Antiquities of the County Palatinate of Durham

Historical and Record Societies[edit | edit source]

Many national publishing enterprises developed in England during the 18th and 19th centuries, as seen below.

Chart: National Record Publication

1717 Re-formation of The Society of Antiquaries
1731-1868 Gentleman’s Magazine included topographical and antiquarian items from all over the country.
1783 Printed edition of Domesday Book
1838 PRO (Public Record Office and now TNA) set up to continue work of publishing texts and calendars of public records started earlier in the century.
1850s Calendars of State Papers begun by PRO.
1857-1900 250 volumes of Middle Ages records published in the Rolls Series by PRO.
1869 Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts established (now Historical Manuscripts Commission)
1888 British Record Society commenced its publication of indexes of historical records such as Chancery Proceedings, Inquisitions Post Mortem, Wills and Marriage Licences known as The Index Library.
1839 Camden Society– ecclesiology (church building and decoration)
1846 Hakluyt Society – maritime history
1869 Harleian Society – heraldry and genealogy, notably the Visitations & City of London parish registers
1883 Pipe Roll Society – pipe rolls (annual accounts of Crown revenues)
1885 Huguenot Society - French Protestants and Walloons
1887 Selden Society – English law
1897 Country Life, a weekly magazine specialising in the description of stately homes, but has a wide range of other topographical subjects

A most interesting summary of the aims and history of the British Record Society, together with its influence on and encouragement of other bodies to transcribe, index and preserve records, was given on its centenary by its general editor, Spufford. A new List and Index Society was established in 1965 to print useful material such as unpublished lists available at The National Archives.

A number of local historical societies, some named after early pioneers, were formed in the 18th and 19th centuries . They were, and still are, concerned with transcribing and publishing the older records of their respective counties. Others called County Record Societies have similar aims, and these should not be confused with the County Record Offices or the Family History Societies, also generally organized by county.

Chart: Local Record Publication

1710 Spalding Gentleman’s Society of Lincolnshire
1813 Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumberland
1834 Surtees Society, County Durham and Yorkshire
1844 Chetham Society, Lancashire and Cheshire
1848 Sussex Archaeological Collections
1863 Yorkshire Archaeological Society
1876 Bristol and Gloucester Archaeological Society
Thoresby Society, of Leeds area in South Yorkshire
1897 Thoroton Society of Nottinghamshire

It pays to keep an eye on commercial as well as society websites, for example Archive CD Books as there is an amazing variety of material now sold on CD.

Topographical prints and drawings in the British Library maps collection can be found at the website.


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course English: Education,Health and Contemporary Documents offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at wiki@genealogicalstudies.com We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.