Hints and tips

London Research

One of most common problems faced by family historians is research in London. There is as yet no single data-base or finding aid that indexes all the records in what we now consider to be London. With over 100 parishes in the City itself and a huge number in Middlesex and what we now consider Greater London, the task is quite daunting.

Finding London records

Sources for what we now recognise as Greater London (London City, Middlesex and the area South of the River Thames) can be found at the London Metropolitan Archives.  Many people also forget that the parishes within the City and Liberty of Westminster are also quite separate although we often think of them as within Greater London. Westminster Records are at the Westminster Archives. The agreement between the London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) and www.ancestry.co.uk   to index many marriage, christening and burial registers, formerly held at the Guildhall Library and the LMA, has gone some way to resolving this problem. The Ancestry website http://landing.ancestry.co.uk/lma/default.aspx  has some indexes and  images of early London  parish registers  along with many nonconformist records, marriage licences and records from the various poor law unions in London. (This is available free to view at the Society of Genealogists Library.)  More will come on stream in due course. Westminster Archives has an arrangement to digitise and make available its records on www.findmypast.co.uk.

Searching for a marriage

Frequently one has reference to the baptisms of children but little information on the origins of the parents. If you have a baptism in an early to mid nineteenth century London parish then you might want to seek reference to the marriage of the parents. As there are over 100 parishes in the City of London alone as well as the large parishes in Middlesex including Westminster, where a marriage may have taken place you might consider looking for the name in the Pallot Marriage Index - the most comprehensive finding aids for marriages in this area, mostly for the period from 1800-1837 but often earlier.

It can be found on www.ancestry.co.uk, which is a subscription based web site but which can be viewed free of charge at the Society's Library. Don't forget that many Londoners obtained marriage licences from the Archbishop of Canterbury's courts of the Vicar General and Faculty Office. These have been indexed by the Society of Genealogists with data available on www.findmypast.co.uk and for SoG members through the Society's Data Online facility on our website prelive.sog.org.uk. Microfilm copies of the original allegations from Lambeth Palace Library are held in the Lower Library at the Society of Genealogists. Boyd’s Marriage index (also on findmypast.co.uk and the SoG's Data Online  has reasonably good coverage of London before 1754.


The indexes to wills of some of the London church courts have been published for this period and the indexes are of course held at the SoG. David Wright has compiled an index to all the London Courts that proved wills (excluding the PCC) for the period 1750-1858. And this London Wills Index can be searched on www.findmypast.co.uk.

The first section of this index covering letters A-D is published on CDROm and a copy is held at the Society of Genealogists.  www.ancestry.co.uk has indexes and images to original wills from records of church courts held at the LMA (and those formerly at Guildhall) but the index does not include act books and other testamentary material at LMA or other record offices.

Useful collections

You might find Cliff Webb’s book My Ancestors were Londoners and Jeremy Gibson & Heather Creaton’s work Lists of Londoners useful for ideas. This available from the SoG bookshop.

Cliff Webb has been compiling some incredibly useful databases of Londoners for the Society which can be found at the SoG Library on the FindMyPast website (www.findmypast.co.uk). These include an index to many of the City of London Livery Company Apprentice Registers, (held at the Guildhall Library) which have many references from the seventeenth - mid nineteenth centuries.

Another useful collection at the SoG was compiled by the indefatigable Percival Boyd is called  Boyd's Inhabitants of London. This is a useful collection of notes on families in the City for the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This too can be found on via the SoG's Data Online and  at www.findmypast.co.uk.  Many of the sources used by Boyd are described in the Society's publication My Ancestors were Freemen of the City of London by Vivienne E Aldous published by the Society of Genealogists. This work is currently out of print but should obtainable through good libraries.

Boyd’s London Burials Index includes entries for adult males from many registers in London before 1837. The City of London Burials Index  (parts1–3) 1813-1853 can be another useful localisation tool. Both are at the Society and available for members on SoG Data Online and also on www.findmypast.co.uk.

The Society of Genealogists Library has many useful printed works for London including trade directories, poll books, city livery company sources and of course printed copies of parish registers. The SoG library catalogue will list holdings and SoG Data Online inlcudes PDF images of Poll Books.

Edited by Else Churchill

© Society of Genealogists 2017

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