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Old British Phone Books Online

You might never have thought of old phone books as a mine of information. But for genealogists and family historians they can offer plenty of information. And that’s what make the forthcomingappearance of old British phone books online so important.   The project, run by Ancestry.co.uk, has taken a little over two years to come to fruition,and brings online over 280 million names from phone books from 1880 to 1984 (that’s 1,780 phone books, in case you’re interested).   That very first phone book covered London and hada total of 248 entries. There were, however, no numbers listed – all calls were routed through an operator. In 1899 a phone was published covering the whole of Britain, with 81,000 subscriberslisted.   The phone books have been in the British Telecom archives.   “Since their introduction in 1880 phonebooks have provided a unique snapshot ofcommunities in Britain in a regular and familiar format, making them an ideal source for both family and social historians,” said David Hay, Head of Heritage, BT Archives.   AsAncestry.co.uk noted on its site,   “Phone books are very useful for pinpointing individuals in a particular place and time. While censuses were only conducted once every ten years, phonebooks were published around every one to two years, creating in essence, an almost year by year record of individuals’ geographic locations and movements. This makes it possible to locate manyindividuals in between census years and especially to find family members during years in which censuses are not currently available to the public.”

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