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Britain gazetteers online

One of the rules to beginning research in a new location is to learn about that location - its geography, history, customs, etc. One of the most difficult genealogical words to spell (besides genealogy) is one of the best resources for helping us learn about these new localities - gazetteers.

Briefly defined, a gazetteer is a geographical dictionary. For example, a gazetteer of a county would name and describe all of the towns, lakes, rivers, and mountains in the county (geographic makeup of the town and region), and might include social statistics such as how many schools, churches, poor houses, etc. They can be used as locators for a map, but also can be used to locate areas nearby where an ancestor may have attended a church, worked, or originated.

England has a wonderful collection of gazetteers, both in book form and in online databases. One of my favorites was created by the Great Britain Historical GIS Project - A Vision of Britain through Time.

On its home page, just enter the name of the place you are researching. I recently learned about the marriage place of my wife's great-grandfather - Brigham, Cumberland, England. I typed in the name Brigham, clicked Search, and a list of all the locations that included this name in Britain appeared. I then clicked on the "Brigham, Cumberland" entry which gave me a long paragraph about the parish. It taught me about the different towns and chapelries associated with the parish, and about the surrounding villages. When working with English jurisdictions, there can be many that you will need to understand. This gazetteer made it so clear.

In addition to the descriptive information, it also included historical maps of the places. These maps show all the little places surrounding the location. Finally, links to information about the historical population, industry, social classes, housing, roots/religion, and even boundary changes were available.

A Vision of Britain through Time is definitely one of the best online gazetteers for Britain. Learn about your ancestors' locations at http://www.visionofbritain.org.uk

Other good online gazetteers are available via GENUKI at http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/Gazetteers.html


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Another outstanding free directory and gazeteer resource for the UK is at http://www.historicaldirectories.org/hd/index.asp, set up by the Univesity of Leicester.

Great site, but there is a more complete gazetteer online at http://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/oswebsite/freefun/didyouknow/.

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