Ancestry recently announced a new database which should interest British researchers. British Phone Books 1880-1984 contains British phone books published between 1880, the year after the public telephone service was introduced to the UK, and 1984, from the historic phone book collection held by BT Archives. Currently the database contains 430 phone books covering London and large parts of Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent, Middlesex, and Surrey.
Importance of phone books for genealogists
Phone books help you pinpoint where your ancestor lived in a certain time. Once we know the when and the where, we can look for other records about them.
Because the UK census was taken every ten years, it's easy to lose track of ancestors that moved between the censuses. Phone books help track their migration. For example, if you located an ancestor in every phone book between 1885-1895, and in 1896 they weren't listed, this suggests that they could have moved to a new area, or possibly they died. (Maybe they didn't pay their phone bill?)
The phone books typically contain the following:
- Name of the head of the household
- Exchange (up to 1968)
- Telephone number
If you are an Ancestry subscribers, or to learn more information, click here.