Information about houses and who lived in them can be found in wills and probate inventories, manorial records (for example, the Lowther family papers), solicitors’ papers, sales details, census records and nineteenth century trade directories. Trade directories are also useful for researching businesses. The archive holds the census as well as death and baptism records on microfiche. The census gives the names of the occupants, ages, sex and occupation and their relationship to each other. From 1851, it also gives the place of birth. The house name is also often given which can be useful when looking at the history of a house.
In Cumbria, communities were governed by manorial courts from medieval times to the nineteenth century. The decisions of these courts can give useful information about houses, boundaries and communal responsibilities for common land and roads. Hearth tax returns (giving the number of hearths per house) and muster rolls (lists for military service) are also worth consulting. These older documents tend to be written in secretary hand which is difficult to decipher, but many have been transcribed.
The archives also hold church documents - for individual churches and diocesan records such as Bishops’ Visitation returns - and school records. School log books kept from 1870 can give a real insight into school life.
Local newspapers are a good source of information for nineteenth and twentieth century history. Many are held on microfiche in our local libraries, but they are not always searchable or catalogued, so an idea of date is useful to narrow down a search.
by Emma Bray