How Do I Find My Local History?

Local history hides many stories that didn’t make it into the books. Although these stories didn’t always have a wider impact or leave obvious traces, they can reveal a lot about how people lived. The stories you uncover once you start to find out about local history can be fascinating, especially when you know you’re walking down the same streets. If you’re just getting started in local history, these are the resources you can use to learn about your area.

Museums and Historic Sites

Local museums often feature collections of objects that were discovered nearby or hold exhibitions on people, events, or topics relating to the area’s history. Some museums will also have permanent exhibits giving an overview of local history, which can be a good starting point to learn about the area. You might find some useful information on their website or blog if you aren’t able to visit in person.

Other historic sites in the area might also have information boards, visitor centres, or websites that can tell you about local history. Historic houses, ruins, battlefields, churches, or other old buildings can be good places to start, but there are also organisations like English Heritage or the National Trust that could own several places in the area. Local schools, charities, societies, or even businesses that have been based in the area for a while may also share useful information online or on location.

Shrewsbury has many old buildings to investigate, often with plaques describing their history and significance. Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery holds many archaeological finds from the area as well as other items relating to local history. The only surviving tower from the original town walls is owned by the National Trust.

Local History Books

If any books have been written about the area you’re interested in then they can give you some deeper insights into local history. You might find anything from an overview of the history over hundreds or thousands of years to personal recollections of living in the area. Even if there aren’t any books focusing on the specific place you’re interested in, you might find that it is mentioned in a book about the wider region.

Your local library will usually have a selection of books about the area. You may also be able to find digitised copies of local history books online, although these will usually be older texts that are now out of copyright.

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online



Most towns and counties will have their own local paper, which may have been in circulation for hundreds of years. Newspapers can be a good way to find out what was happening at a certain time, even if no one has yet written about it in a book. Although the published stories will be limited to topics that were considered newsworthy at the time and will be coloured by the writer’s perspective, they can reveal a lot. You can also learn what life was like from the letters, advertisements, and other material included in the paper.

If you’re interested in Shrewsbury’s local history then there are several local papers that could help. The oldest is the Shrewsbury Chronicle, which was founded in 1772. Past copies of this and other local newspapers can be consulted at Shropshire Archives or read online at the British Newspaper Archive (subscription required).

Local Archives

The local archives for the area you’re interested in is usually the best place to investigate local history. If you want to pursue any in depth research then you are likely to end up at the archives. Local archives usually have a lot of material on land ownership, court cases that were heard locally, local businesses, and the work of the local council and its predecessors.

You may also find some useful material for local history at other libraries or archives, such as the National Archives. For example, there may be local cases that had to be held at a larger court or material on land ownership that was collected at a national level. Sometimes the National Archives or other collections will include material that has been lost or destroyed locally.

Local History Groups

Many areas have local history groups made up of people who are interested in the history of a village, town, county, or region. Some groups will share interesting stories or recommend resources on their websites. You might also want to join your local group (or the group covering the area you’re interested in) so you can attend events and connect with other members.


Can Genealogy Sites Help with Local History?

Genealogy websites can be valuable resources for certain kinds of local history research. If you want to find out who used to live in your house then you can search the census records. If you are interested in what kinds of jobs people did or how religious affiliations changed over time, then genealogy sites can be the easiest way to access the parish records, censuses, and other sources you need.

However, the collections gathered by these sites and the search tools they provide were designed with family history in mind. You might not be able to get the material you need for local history through these websites. Many old documents in archives contain interesting information, but if it doesn’t help with genealogy, the records won’t be added to family history sites. The tools these sites provide are also intended for users who are searching for named individuals and looking for relationships between family members. FindMyPast does allow you to search the UK census by addressAffiliate, but otherwise it is necessary to browse through records page by page if you’re not looking for a specific name. The Genealogist – UK census, BMDs and more onlineAffiliate can also be searched by address and some records can be located on historic maps with the site’s Map Explorer. You can also look at old pictures in The Genealogist’s Image Archive, which includes pictures of many different locations.