The first records to be launched are the phone books for Greater London, which reveal many fascinating insights into the social history of the past hundred years.
The total collection of the British phone books, 1880-1984 contain in excess of 250 million names, greater than the English, Welsh and Scottish Census collections combined. The 430 London books alone (which include the counties of Surrey, Hertfordshire, Essex, Kent and Middlesex), contain over 72 million names.
Family history enthusiasts can now find online exactly where their ancestors once lived, enabling them to build a more detailed picture of their family history, while social history enthusiasts interested in the new and fast growing interest of exploring ‘hidden house history' can begin to identify and learn about the previous inhabitants of their homes.
Members of Ancestry.co.uk can search the British phone books, 1880-1984 by name, year, and county, allowing them to fill in many of the gaps in their family and house histories left by other traditional genealogy sources.
BT Archives' collection of phone books is the most complete set of British telephone directories in existence.
Josh Hanna, Managing Director of Ancestry.co.uk, comments: "The British phone books, 1880-1984 collection is an important and fascinating addition to our online records and provides family and social historians with unique twentieth century information which has been very difficult to find up until now.
"The British phone books, 1880-1984 collection contain very particular details about the lives of the famous - and the infamous - including the likes of Sir Winston Churchill and Bram Stoker.
"Ancestry.co.uk's association with BT has resulted in the vital preservation of an important archive for family and social historians alike to use and enjoy."
David Hay, Head of Heritage, BT Archives, comments: "Since their introduction in 1880, phone books have provided a unique snapshot of communities in Britain in a regular and familiar format, making them an ideal source for both family and social historians. BT is committed to preserving the history of telecommunications and delighted to be improving access to its heritage through this exciting venture."
The BT collection of phone books are public records up to 1984, the date of BT's privatisation, and are held and safeguarded on behalf of the nation by BT Archives. By drawing on Ancestry.co.uk's renowned expertise and highly developed technology in order to digitise and make more widely available the British phone books, BT Archives has found a new way to fulfill its responsibilities to preserve and promote the UK's telecommunications heritage and provide greater access to these important records. The modern day successor to the historical books, The Phone Book from BT, not only contains traditional residential numbers, but has evolved to become a comprehensive source of local business and service information.
The British phone books, 1880-1984 represents a major addition to Ancestry.co.uk's extensive range of sources for family and social history, offering more records than any other website and securing its position as the most innovative and accurate resource for family and social history on the internet.