Free online resources for local history research
There's a wealth of online resources to help you with your local history research. Here are some of the free-to-use websites.
Firstly our own website will tell you if we’ve already been exploring a topic. Use the search box at the top of our home page to find out.
While family history sites such as Ancestry and FindMyPast are usually subscription only, you can use them free of charge through your public library. It's also worth keeping an eye on social media, as from time to time they offer 'free weekend use', for example on bank holidays. York Family History Society are also an excellent source of help and information, based at the Raylor Centre in James St in York.
The National Library of Scotland have digitised UK maps on their wonderful website at https://maps.nls.uk, including Ordnance Survey maps at a range of scales, from 1851-1966. There is also Visions of Britain, which allows you to chose an area to investigate maps, census data and historical descriptions through time.
The City Archives at York Explore have much archival material relevant to local history research. You have to book an appointment and sometimes the material is stored elsewhere, so you need to give them plenty of notice. Use the Archives search box at https://exploreyork.org.uk/archives to find out if they have any material relating to your area/street/person/organisation/topic of interest. The Borthwick Archive at the University of York is also invaluable for some topics. Use their search box at https://www.york.ac.uk/borthwick/ to find out if they have any relevant archival material for you.
The City Archaeologist maintains a very useful Historic Environment Record (York HER) at https://her.york.gov.uk, which captures all the information about York’s rich archaeological heritage, including links to historical details and reports. You can use their map to find out more. Similar material is also available from the Archaeological Data Service.
There is much helpful background material about York buildings, people and organisations at British History Online.
Many old books have been digitised and are freely available at https://archive.org/