Printed sources

While you should bear in mind that printing is not necessarily a guarantee of accuracy or reliability, many printed sources can be very useful to the family historian. These include:-


Many pedigrees, mostly of noble and gentry families, have appeared in print. An index by surname, in three volumes, appears in: MARSHALL, G.W., The genealogist's guide, 4th ed., 1903 (republished 1967); continued in WHITMORE, J.B., A genealogical guide, 1953; continued in BARROW, G.B., The genealogist's guide, 1977. Also useful is THOMSON, T.R., A catalogue of British family histories, 3rd ed., with addenda, 1976. These volumes refer to pedigrees printed in such works as Burke's Landed Gentry, various heralds' visitations and antiquarian periodicals. Many books of this type are available on the History Centre's library shelves and the Library of the Wiltshire Archæological and Natural History Society at Devizes Museum, which also has many printed and manuscript Wiltshire pedigrees.


Wiltshire directories fall into three categories:-

  • Early directories (c.1780 to c.1850) giving details of tradesmen, residents of independent means and the professional classes in towns only.
  • County directories (1848-1939 at four- or five-yearly intervals) including similar information for all towns and villages in Wiltshire.
  • Local directories (late nineteenth century to the present day) sometimes including details of all householders in an individual town and/or its vicinity.

Early directories (1783-1842) have been republished and indexed as the Wiltshire Record Society's Volume 47. Library and archive staff will advise on the location and availability of other directories, some of which now have to be consulted on microfiche.

Taxation Record 1576, published by Wiltshire Record Society, vol. 10

Electoral Rolls

Printed copies of electoral rolls for Wiltshire from 1832 to the present day exist in the Wiltshire and Swindon Archives. Their limitations need to be borne in mind:-

  • Electoral registers are legally closed for ten years after their first issue. The current electoral register is legally accessible, though this will be held at the main office of the relevant district council.
  • Surnames do not appear in alphabetical order in towns.
  • Prior to the introduction of universal suffrage (1918 for men and 1928 for women, over 21) electoral rolls listed only those categories of resident entitled to vote, and not all adult residents.

Parish Histories

Families whose history is found to be closely identified with a particular parish may be mentioned in histories of that place. Parish histories also provide interesting background information enabling your family to be placed within its local context. The most useful published series of Wiltshire parish histories is the Victoria County History of Wiltshire (V.C.H.) which to date cover about 180 parishes.

Histories of individual parishes, varying greatly in scope, approach and reliability, may be found in the County Local Studies Library and the W.A.N.H.S. Library at Devizes Museum. Others have appeared as periodical articles, especially in The Wiltshire Archæological and Natural History Magazine ('W.A.M.') from 1854 onwards. The two published Wiltshire Bibliographies by Goddard, E.H., (1929) and Green, R.A.M., (1975) between them list most books and periodical articles published on Wiltshire subjects up to about 1960. The Local Studies Library catalogue also lists more recent books and articles.

Record Publications

Details of various important local and national records have been printed and these publications often contain indexes of surnames. Some national publications (such as the Calendars of Inquisitions Post Mortem) are available at the County Local Studies Library, and the publications of the British Record Society Index Library (including lists of early P.C.C. wills) are available on microfiche at the same place. Individual volumes, published virtually annually from 1939 by the Wiltshire Record Society are widely available and remain in print.

Local Newspapers

The earliest of these date from the mid-18th century, although many did not appear until much later. Early issues contained comparatively little local news, although brief reports of trials of criminals appeared, and unusual events occurring locally may also be mentioned. Advertisements are often overlooked but may provide unique information on tradesmen or the professional classes. Notices of births, marriages and deaths and lengthy obituary notices are not generally found for people below the level of the gentry before the mid- to late-19th century. Some papers published outside Wiltshire circulated within the county, such as those from Bath and Gloucester, but copies of these are not held in Wiltshire except eighteenth century Bath papers and the Sherborne Mercury. Most newspapers are produced for searchers on microfilm because of their fragility and deteriorating condition.

A detailed list of local newspapers is available at the History Centre. Lists of which newspapers cover which area of the county can be seen on the local studies team's Community History pages

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