A story in yesterday’s Guardian pointed me toward a very cool new site called London Lives, an online archive covering 1690 and 1800 (these are not absolute dates — the records I saw stretched a little before and a little after this span.) The archive contains 240,000 manuscripts from eight archives and fifteen datasets. That’s over 3.3 million names. It’s available at http://www.londonlives.org/.
There are several ways to go through the content on this site. You can browse by record type, or you can browse a selected list of names or go through a tag cloud. And of course on the front page you can do a search by first name and surname, with the additional option of specifying a time span.
I did a search for John Smith across the entire history of the site. Initially the page showed I got 20 results, but by clicking on the “Calculate Total” link I discovered that it was actually 6752 results. Results included name, record type, and relevant extract. For example: “John Smith, minor[es] / Records of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1681-1709, 1st January 1659 / 5712 Baptism John Smith male “born ye .18. January baptizd ye 1st”. Click on the name or the record type name for a detail page which will also allow you to page through additional records in this collection.
I did a second search for John Pratt (long story) and got a much shorter list of 203 results. This set of results eemed more diverse than the first result, with records including baptisms, proven wills, and tax records.
While searching I did not see any way to look at the original pages of the records, but if you browse the documents by record types you’ll have the option of going through an entire document, looking at a transcription and the original document image at the same time. Run your mouse over the original image and it acts as an instant magnifying glass, showing you close up views of individual lines as you pull your mouse pointer down the document. Very nice.
For additional information about this project, check out the <a href="http://www.londonlives.org/static/Background.jsp" historic background page and information on how this particular project was put together. There was an astounding amount of work put into this: well done.