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Local History for Continuing Education: Archives and primary sources

A guide to finding information on Local History resources in the Rewley House Continuing Education Library

Sources in local archives

Local archives are sometimes called local history centres or county record offices or something similar.  They will hold primary sources on many aspects of the local and community life of a particular area and will include parish records (vestry minutes), maps (tithe maps, parish maps, ordnance survey maps etc), records of local societies and charities (secular and religious), local newspapers, census returns, visual material (photographs and drawings), oral testimony, diaries and journals of local individuals, local government papers, records of local businesses, legal records etc. 

Using local archives

Not all local archives will hold every type of material so check the website and search the online catalogue if there is one.  If you are planning to visit a particular archive in person, this is essential and it is always a good idea to contact the staff to let them know what you wish to consult to make sure that it is available before you go. Be aware that not everything held by local archives will necessarily have been catalogued and staff may be able to produce uncatalogued material.

Finding archives

National Archives

The National Archives hold a a very large amount of documents relating to Local History. Some documents are available online and some may be downloaded for a fee. 

You will also find In-depth research guides on researching people, places and subjects.

The Manorial Documents Register gives details of where manorial records can be found.


Newspapers are a very useful source for Local History.  You can access these newspaper databases from the PCs in the Library or any other PC on the University network. If you have a University card, you can access them from any internet connection using your Single Sign On.