10 best free 18th century websites

By Guest, 13 July 2017 - 8:14am

There are plenty of resources available to take your tree back even further, says Pam Ross

window tax
Tax records for hair powder are one of many resources for 18th century research. Credit: Alamy

You’ve done all you can to find your family back to around 1800. Is it time to call it a day? Quit while you’re ahead? Or 
do you slip the reassuring hand of the 19th century and try to go further back in time?

Researching the 18th century needn’t be difficult, it’s just different. You don’t leave familiar territory behind entirely; wills, parish registers, directories and newspapers are still available though it might take more work to find them.

Read the full version of this article and lots more expert family history advice in Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine  Summer 2017, on sale now. 

Civil registration certificates and census returns can still help you in your search. For example, Henry and Cassandra Austen, 
Jane Austen’s brother and sister were born 
in the 1770s and lived long enough to appear in a very faint entry of the 1841 census at home in Chawton, Hampshire. Three other brothers lived beyond the 1851 census – all long enough to warrant a search for a death certificate and burial.

You can begin tracing your own 18th century ancestors with these ten websites, all absolutely free.

1. London Lives 1690-1800


Has over three million names from London and beyond including Old Bailey Proceedings, workhouse records, hospital, guild and coroners’ records.

2. Locating London's Past

Hearth Tax Online

Place names mentioned in some of the sources in London Lives can be placed in context on Rocque’s map of London dated 1746.

3. Scotland's Places

The National Archives

Free access to Land Tax or Valuation Rolls, and records of other taxes such as Window Tax, Male and Female Servants’ Tax and Carriage Tax.

4. FamilySearch


Baptisms, marriages and burials from registers and bishops’ transcripts. Parish collections offer some free document images and links to commercial sites.

5. FreeReg


Allows searches for baptisms, marriages and burials from UK parish registers, nonconformist registers and some other sources (also try Online Parish Clerks).

6. TNA Apprenticeship Registers 1710-1811


Free to download and browse as part of the digital microfilm project. There are indexes at commercial providers for a fee.

7. The National Library of Wales


The NLW provides free to read images of Welsh wills for all dioceses in the country.

8. British Library of India Records


The British Library provides free access to 300,000 births marriages and deaths in the India Office Records.

9. The National Library of Ireland


Free access to Catholic registers for all of Ireland. Not all date back to the 18th century but some, including Dublin, start in 1740.

10. Internet Library of Early Journals


Nearly 20 years of the Gentleman’s Magazine including life events, bankruptcies, promotions in the army, navy and the church.



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