Available on this web site

Our aim is to provide local history resources for the West Midlands area, and these are explained in more detail below.

You can Search the text of all the books using keywords, or perhaps the name of an individual whose background you are researching. The text database has been generated using optical character recognition software from the pages we have scanned so far.

There is more detail below on each of the resources available on our web site

What's in an electoral roll?

Electoral rolls list those people who are entitled to vote. That may seem obvious, but the qualification to vote has changed over time:-

  1832    Included householders (owner or tenant) in a property worth
 at least £10 p.a. (if rented) 
  about 1 man in 7  
  1867    Extended franchise to lodgers paying £10 p.a. in rent    about 1 man in 3  
  1918    All male residents over 21    about 2 men in 3  
  1928    Every resident or owner over 21, women over 30   about 5 people in 6  
  1948    Every resident over 21   All adults  

Although these were the principal qualifications there were others. Again, these varied over time but included a business qualification, an occupation, or qualification through a spouse's qualification. It was not until 1948 that universal suffrage was introduced for people over the age of 21, which was reduced to 18 in 1970. More details.

What is the value of electoral rolls?

Electoral Rolls are useful in locating where a household is living at any point in time. For the period since the date of the latest census available for public viewing (1911) they are probably the most complete list of the population available, although obviously they omit people not entitled to vote (e.g. children).

The Absent Voters list for 1918 has special significance.  There was a general election in 1918, and the list was drawn up to record the 73,000 people entitled to vote who were not at home.  Nearly all these voters were on active service, and in many cases this list records their rank, service number, regiment, and of course their address.

For Birmingham, there were Absent Voters Lists right up to 1939. although after 1921 the number of people on these lists is reduced to between 2,500 and 6,500.

What's in a directory?

  • A topographical description of the area, often including its geology, soils, agriculture, industries, transport, etc.
  • The history of the area
  • Lists of the inhabitants that have trades, and in most of the later directories even street by street, house by house lists of all householders
  • "Official" lists of local government and other institutions

How old are directories?

The earliest directories were published for the major cities, starting in London.  The first recognisable London directory was published in 1677 - although it was not until 1734 that a second directory appeared. In Birmingham the first directory appeared around 1767 but these were very selective, and it was not until Wrightson started publishing his directories around 1800 that there was more comprehensive coverage.

The Post Office started publishing directories for London in 1799.  It was originally compiled by an inspector of inland letter carriers, but in 1835 he sold the copyright to Frederick Kelly, who was then Chief Inspector of Inland letter carriers. Despite the obvious conflicty of interest, Kelly started publishing directories on his own account, and from 1845 onwards expanded into other provincial areas.

Did people have to pay to be included in a directory?

In the early days, some publishers tried charging for entries, notably Pye in Birmingham around 1800, but this did not prove popular.  Directory publishers made their money by selling directories and by selling advertising space.  However, they had to get the price right - early publishers went out of business because the prices they charged for their directories were too high. 

Is my ancestor going to be found in a directory?

Not necessarily. The early directories included people with trades. This doesn't mean just businesses and shops, but anyone with a recognised trade, such as a chimney sweep, a teacher, or a dress maker working from home. Apprentices  and labourers were not included, although in the later post 1900 directories, that had street listings of people in major towns, such people were included. In any case, only the head of household was listed in a directory.

What's in a Regimental History?

The history of a regiment, or sometimes a battalion. Quite often, they are the most detailed account outside the war diaries of the activities of the Regiment during the First or Second World Wars. As such, they provide an excellent context for your researches.

Understanding the campaigns that a Regiment fought will help to place the experiences of an ancestor. It may also help in describing the organisation of a Regiment, so that you can make sense of the Unit to which your ancestor belonged.

How old are Regimental Histories?

Regimental Histories seem to have started in the late 19th century.  They fall into two main categories:-

  • General histories of a regiment
  • Detailed account of the campaigns during a war

Those in the latter category are often written as a memorial to those who have fallen, and provide many personal experiences you will not find elsewhere.

Will I find my ancestor?

If your ancestor was an officer, then you may be successful. Some histories contain "Rolls of Honour", which note casaulties, and also medals won, and these of course do include "Other ranks". But otherwise, "Other ranks" are rarely named.

However, for the First World War a good source are the Absent Voters Lists for Birmingham. The 1918 Absent Voters List contains 73,000 names, and most of these are servicemen who had not yet returned home. What makes these particularly interesting is that they give the service number, rank and regiment of the Serviceman in addition to his home address. This is information you may not be able to find elsewhere.

What's in a local history?

As the name suggests, the history of a local area.

How old are local histories?

Local histories and travelogues have been produced from Tudor times onwards. The earliest local history book on this site is a history of Warwickshire which was first compiled by Dugdale in 1656, and is a combination of a description of the county at that time and its history.

What is the value of local histories?

They provide a context for your historical researches. Occasionally, they can provide specific information on an ancestor but this is unlikely unless the ancestor was a public figure.

Church records

What we do not have here are parish registers. What we do have are a number of local histories that focus entirely on the locality and the local church - and some of these do have some extracts from the Parish Registers, and other documents from the "parish chest".

Typical of the is Pemberton's History of Solihull and its Church - it describes the growth of Solihull, notable families, their houses and estates, key events in the history of St Alphege Church, and a detailed description of the church illustrated by photographs. There is a summary of the surviving registers and records, but no details from the registers.

Another item of interest is "The Old non-parochial Registers of Dudley".  Published in 1899, this does contain the registers of the dissenting churches in Dudley from the late 18th and early 19th centuries.  It also contains a brief history of these churches and chapels.

FHS indexes

Finally, we have completed two projects with two different family history societies and have made these available here. They are:-

  • Warwick cemetry burial slips (with BMSGH)
  • Warwickshire Poor Law Index (with Coventry FHS)

Warwick burial slips

Burial slips are single page forms used to record the administrative details of a burial – to identify the deceased like name, address, occupation; the service, grave size, grave location; and so on. Some slips have personal notes scribbled on them, and many have accompanying documentation (like certification, correspondence, etc.) which provide additional information. BMSGH volunteers created a name and surname index which can be searched from this site. We believe that we have scanned slips for all burials in the period, so this is – in effect – a burial index for Warwick Cemetery for the period.

Poor Law Index

The Poor Law governed the way in which Parishes provided welfare to the poor and dispossessed in their parishes. The original Poor Law dated from the period of Elizabeth I, and remained in force until the early 20th century.

The index on this web site covers the records held in various Warwickshire archvies, and covers the period up to 1834. It is the result of the hard work of many volunteers from the Coventry Family History Society.

Firstly, Barbara Robinson spent many hours over a periof of 13 years scouring the archives and record offices in Warwickshire for Poor Law records (including Birmingham), and has transcribed the key details onto the sheets which are reproduced here with her kind permission. The handwritten transcriptions, which run to around 1,600 pages, were originally bound in 12 volumes. Each transcription contains all the information from the original certificate, including names, dates, names of parishes, family, employers, masters, plus the accession number of the bundle of certificates and the name of the place of deposit.

Secondly, a number of volunteers from the Society have produced a surname index of these transcriptions – which makes it (as far as we are aware) the only complete index to Poor Law Records to be found for Warwickshire. It is indeed a valuable resource.