Older County Histories

The Victoria County History is often the first port of call for genealogists seeking reliable information about families which held manors in medieval England. But in a sense the VCH is only the culmination of a process which began several centuries earlier, and the older county histories that preceded it can still be very useful to the genealogist. Not only is the VCH far from complete in its coverage, but also the older works have a stronger genealogical emphasis, often giving detailed pedigrees rather than tracing the bare bones of manorial descents.

Of course, caution is needed when using these older works, which vary tremendously in quality. At their best, they can provide a wealth of genealogical information supported by source material from both national and local records - some no longer extant. But at their worst they can be superficial and derivative, often repeating traditional pedigrees uncritically or adding to the confusion with fresh concoctions of their own.

In these pages I have attempted to list the older county histories which are available online, the bulk of them through Google Books and the Internet Archive's Text Archive section. As well as histories covering whole counties, I have included those dealing with smaller areas such as hundreds or wapentakes. But I have not normally included histories of individual places, with the exceptions of London, York and Bristol.