Posted by Echo King on March 27, 2009 in Collections

On March 26 Ancestry announced the first release of data to the definitive collection of records detailing the rich history of London and its inhabitants over 400 years. This historic collection is being completed in partnership with London Metropolitan Archives and Guildhall Library Manuscripts following a competitive tender by the City of London to digitise and exclusively host their collection online.

Starting with records from London’s infamous Victorian workhouses memorably depicted by Charles Dickens in Oliver Twist, the collection will include more than 77 million records, providing an unprecedented insight into the colorful history of one of the world’s greatest cities. 

Key record types include parish and workhouse records, electoral rolls, wills, land tax records and school reports. According to a recent family history survey, more than half of the current British population will have an ancestor in these historic London records. In addition, it is estimated that approximately 135 million people from the U.S., Canada and Australia will also be able to trace ancestors in the collection due to London’s status as the city at the centre of the British Empire for centuries.

Assembled over time direct from various London institutions, the final collection, estimated to be completed in 2010, will include the names of millions of ordinary Londoners alongside famous and infamous figures from the city’s past from Oliver Cromwell to John Milton.

The workhouse or ‘Board of Guardians’ records now online contain the names of those who were born, baptised or died in a London workhouse in the 19th and early 20th century. During this time, men, women and children who couldn’t support themselves were forced to live in these institutions, working long hours in tedious jobs in exchange for minimal food and board.

The conditions were kept intentionally poor to deter others and unofficial beatings or starving of inmates were not unheard of. Overcrowding was also a major problem, compounded by the influx of Irish immigrants after the potato famine of the mid 19th century. While conditions improved slightly in the early 20th century, the workhouses were still a feared ‘last resort’ by most until their abolition in 1930.

Today’s release includes records from: Poplar, Paddington, St Marylebone, St Pancras, Southwark, Islington, Stepney, Westminster, Lambeth, Wandsworth, Holborn and Hampstead. The remaining regions will launch online in the coming months. Also included today are a variety of workhouse creed registers, admissions, discharges, apprenticeship papers and lists of ‘lunatics’.

Access the data through one of these recently added databases:

 London, England, Births and Baptisms, 1834-1906

London, England, Deaths and Burials, 1834-1934

London, England, Poor Law Records, 1840-1938

Workhouse records are just one of the record types which comprise the London Historical Records, 1500s-1900s. Future updates will include:

Parish Registers – from 1538, priests had to keep records of all baptisms, marriages and burials in their parish. These records are taken from over 10,000 Greater London parishes, and as they pre-date both civil registration and censuses, they are the essential ‘next step back’ for people wishing to trace their family genealogy beyond the 19th century.  

School Admissions and Discharges – contain records taken from 800+ London schools dating from the early Victorian times through to 1911. They provide admission details and information about millions of London students. 

Non-Conformist Registers – details the birth, baptism, death and burial of religious dissenters who did not worship at the established church in England from 1694 to 1921. The majority of the records are for Methodist, Baptist and United Reformed churches, although there are smaller collections of other denominations such as Quakers and Seventh Day Adventists



  1. Alex

    I was surprised to see that the “poor law records” database has not been name indexed. While the documents in them are interesting to browse in the meantime, I’m hoping that a searchable index will be forthcoming?

    • Echo King


      Our main focus right now is to complete the name indexes for the parish records from collections of the London Metropolitan Archives. We are always reviewing our options for the other collections and are interested in indexing as much as we can. In the meantime we hope you will enjoy the access you have to the images.

  2. Michelle

    We finally get some new, useful English content and what happens? It’s made part of this new UK Heritage Plus!

    How can Ancestry justify not including London records in the UK Heritage package?

    People rang Ancestry last year and specifically asked about what package they would need to access the LMA records and were told repeatedly that it would be included in the current UK Heritage package.

    Will the next major US addition require a new subscription or is it only the UK focused researchers who are getting ripped off?

    Why not just make everyone pay the World Deluxe and stopping trying to sneak these price rises in.


    PS. Posted with no expectation of an answer.

  3. Hi Michelle,

    Not wanting to be too cynical but have you considered the current exchange rates vis-a-vis the pound and the dollar.

    Not too long ago when the rate was around two dollars to the pound the UK world coverage charge of 155 pounds did sort of compare to the US rate for world subscription of 299 dollars.

    At the current exchange rate that same 155 pounds converts to around 220 dollars – a whopping drop in revenue from the UK customers.

    Now the cynical part, maybe the new UK Heritage Plus package is a way of clawing back some revenue.

    My renewal is coming up in June, I may cancel my US subscription and get my daughter to join in the UK, I think I’d still get the access I needed – and save 79 dollars 🙂


  4. Michelle

    All true, but I’m not in the UK. I’m in Australia, so the exchange rate is not good.


  5. Michelle

    All true, but I’m not in the UK. I’m in Australia, so the exchange rate is not good.

    It’s more the principle of calling something the UK package but then not including all UK records.


  6. Hi Michelle,

    I didn’t realise you were in Australia – but the same situation still exists.

    Back in September 2008 the exchange rate to the US dollar for the Australian Dollar was .848 so 299 AUD was equal to around 253 USD. That same 299 AUD now converts to 207 USD at .693 exchange rate.

    A huge drop in revenue from Australia – what do you think?


  7. Moragh

    When are you going to include Scottish and Irish records , poor law records birth, death and marriage etc.
    I have to pay for them again from an other source. I can understand why no new Census records, But not the others. I have a World delux membership that up for Renewal soon!

  8. Echo King

    Michelle – your question is a very good one. I will try to explain. As our record collections have grown in the last year, the need has arisen to create record packages which are more closely aligned with the various phases and geographical needs of our members’ family history research. The new packages provide options for members depending on their level of advancement and where their ancestors come from, and in doing so also represent better value for money as members only pay for the records they need to access.

    For example, most new members only use core records such as census and BMD whereas more experienced members want to explore a wider range of records. Also, depending on what knowledge they already have about their family history, members may need just Australian records, or a combination of UK, Australian and/or other international records.

    You should be receiving additional information soon that explains more about the various package options.

  9. Elaine Wareham

    I currently have the UK and Ireland Deluxe membership, which was the standard UK membership before the UK Essentials and Premiums packages were introduced last August/September.

    I contacted Ancestry last week and was told that I would be able to view the new LMA records with this membership – and I could – for one day (Friday 27th). By Saturday morning the access had been withdrawn.

    I know I am not the only one in this position – but it seems Ancestry are not very quick to respond to emails this week to tell us all what is going on.

  10. bromaelor

    Elaine, I’m in the same position as you!

    When I renewed my membership last time I got an email from Ancestry saying ….
    “Looking forward we will continue to add to our record collections, both existing and new, so giving you even more opportunities to discover new ancestors and create rich pictures of those you already know something about. These will include the addition of major new international record collections.”
    They didn’t mention that I would have to pay extra for that privilege!!!

  11. roger


    Can you tell me exactly what is going on with access to these Records.

    I’m on the old UK Annual Subscription till it comes up for renewal in July. At first I had no access to these record and was told I needed to upgrade my subscription. Then for a while I had access and now access has once again been stopped.

    What is going on? Do I need to upgrade to gain access? From the community pages I note that people in my position, who have complained directly to Ancestry, have had e-mails saying that it is a mistake and they should have access as the old UK Subscription is the equivilant of the ‘Premium’ subscription level.

    Just to confuse things I do appear to have access to Irish Records which are part of the Premium package!

    Please can you clarify this once and for all.


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