British Telephone Directories and Passenger Lists

by Ian Sheppard, UK

Your readers may or may not know that over the last year and have introduced respectively the ability to search UK telephone directories (1880 to 1984 at the time of writing), and passenger lists (1890 to 1939). The latter is advertised as being available through 1960 but this is not currently available.

I mention this because I had hitherto not made much use of these record types. Telephones in the UK were by no means universal in the 1920s and 1930s, and after World War II demand increased but there were long waiting lists to get a phone.

However, recently my negative view was changed somewhat for the better by the discovery of a relation who had hitherto "disappeared" after the 1901 England census. I was able to trace someone with her name and initials from the 1920s to 1970. But was this the correct someone? The passenger lists revealed that about every two or three years she departed UK by sea, presumably for a holiday. The lists gave her name, sometimes just with initials, but also occasionally in full, plus her age and her address. Putting all these together gave me a very full history of her life in a period not well covered by other sources, and also (by her disappearance from the telephone directories) a fair idea of when she died.

Previously published in RootsWeb Review: 16 January 2008, Vol. 11, No. 3.

(Posted 20 January 2008)

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