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Basic Sources for Studying Your Locality

Coppull Ring Mill, Chorley, Lancashire - Image 357608 © Mr Roy Finch LRPSThere are certain basic sources to use for studying the history of a locality, its buildings and its people. These sources are likely to be available for any area.

Use these as raw material for finding out how the locality developed and what it was like to live there in the past.

Use this basic knowledge to decide which aspects of the locality to study in more detail and what questions to ask. This next step may involve more specific sources that will vary from place to place.

You will need to use both archive and local studies sources.


Articles of Incorporation for The Weardale Iron Company 1846, reproduced by kind permission of Durham Record Office reference DX/1340/1Local studies material is generally printed and many copies would have been produced,although few of them may have survived. It also includes secondary sources; books or articles that have been written about a place or event, drawing information from various sources.

Archives are traditionally handwritten, unique documents that were produced in the course of a person's life or work, during the course of an event or by an organisation as part of its work. They will have been produced as something happened, as a record, and not written later as a history. Modern archive material can be in a variety of formats including film and electronic data.

Traditionally local studies material was kept in a reference or local studies library and archives in a record office or archives department. There has always been some variation from place to place and some sources; particularly photographs, trade directories, maps, newspapers and the census, could be in either or both!

There is a growing trend for keeping archives and local studies in one place, possibly known as a Local Study Centre or Heritage Centre.

Follow any of the links below for more information on basic sources and ideas on how to use them

Historic Maps : Trade Directories : Newspapers and Magazines : Government Commissions and Reports : Photographs : Census : Official Guides : Estate Agent Records : Plans : Taxes and Rating Records : Probate Inventories : Church Registers

See also the section on Find Sources

Please note that the inclusion of a listed building on this website does not mean it is open to the public.