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Berkshire, one of the inland cos. of England, lying between Hants and the river Thames, bounded on the N. by Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, and Bucks, E. by Surrey, S. by Hants, and W. by Wilts; greatest length, E. and W., 53 miles; greatest breadth, N. and W., 30 miles; area 462,210 ac., pop. 218,363. It is intersected in a westerly direction by a line of chalk hills, a continuation of the Chilterns, the highest elevation being White Horse Hill, alt. 893 ft. N. of this is the White Horse Vale (so called from the figure of a horse cut out on the hill-side), and to the S. lies the Vale of Kennet, watered by the Kennet stream. These tracts are well cultivated, and produce good crops of grain, &c., especially in the Vale of the White Horse. Dairy farms and commons abound; much of the surface is under woods, chiefly of oak and beech. Windsor Forest, covering upwards of 50,000 ac., lies in the E. (For agricultural statistics, see Appendix.) The Thames flows along the entire N. boundary (100 miles in extent); its tributaries are the Kennet, Lambourn, Ock, and Loddon. The mfrs. are unimportant, being chiefly agricultural implements and malt. The Great Western Ry., the Thames, and 2 canals are the chief means of transit. The co. contains 20 hundreds, 193 pars. with parts of 4 others, the parl. and mun. bors. of Reading (1 member) and New Windsor (1 member), the mun. bors. of Maidenhead, Newbury, and Wallingford, and the greater part of the mun. bor. of Abingdon. It is almost entirely in the diocese of Oxford. For parliamentary purposes it is divided into 3 divisions, viz., Northern or Abingdon, Southern or Newbury, and Eastern or Wokingham, 1 member for each division.See also general descriptions about Berkshire from Berkshire FHS, Pigot's 1830 Directory, The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868), Cassell's Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland, 1899 . Other descriptions can be found from other periods in various trade directories covering Berkshire from the early 19th century onwards and from A Vision of Britain Through Time.
The Berkshire Record Office (BRO) hold most local history records and family history records for historic Berkshire (including some records of parts that are now in Oxfordshire). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Note that you will require a County Archive Research Network (CARN) reader's ticket to consult any of their records (more about visiting...). The methods available to search different parts of their holdings are:
Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead (RBWM ) Libraries have local studies libraries at Maidenhead Library (recently refurbished); Windsor and Ascot Libraries which cover each of their local areas. This list summarises their local studies holdings. As well as the borough-wide catalogue which is useful for local studies queries about items stocked. The above libraries also each maintain their own substantial databases of local information. The libraries offer a research service, for which there can be a charge.
Archives are held
in the Round Tower at Windsor Castle and holds documents that relate to
the Royal Family, the Monarchy and household staff for a period of over
250 years. Subscription access is available from Find
Locations and contacts for other record offices and archives in the UK and Ireland.
General information about the England and Wales censuses, including online access.
Berkshire FHS offers on-site access through Findmypast, Origins and Ancestry. Their shop sells CDs containing full indices and transcripts of the 1851, 1881, 1891 censuses of Berkshire.
British Surname Atlas CD allows exploration of the distribution of forenames and surnames in the 1881 census returns for Berkshire (and the rest of Great Britain).
For post-July 1837 English & Welsh civil records of births, marriages and deaths, see Civil Registration.
The Archdeaconry of Berkshire was part of the Diocese of Salisbury until 1836 when it was transferred to the Diocese of Oxford. As a result of this, Bishop's Transcripts and items, such as some wills, which came under the jurisdiction of the diocesan courts are found in the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre or the Oxfordshire Record Office. There are three Peculiar jurisdictions.
Parish register copies for Berkshire in the library of the Society of Genealogists.
Births, marriages and deaths (BMDs) in England and Wales post-July 1837 were recorded by local Register Offices (even those marriages conducted in church), with copies also held by the General Register Office (GRO). See explanation of Civil Registration in England and Wales and how to order certificates. Indexes are available:
Mailing lists, message boards and forums for Berkshire:
Researchers may be interested in the Berkshire Genweb pages.
List of Berkshire hundreds, the historical sub-divisions of counties, introduced in the 10th century primarily as a unit of taxation but also having administrative, judicial and military functions.
General information about history.
Digital Ordnance Survey (OS) maps of Berkshire (and elsewhere) from the mid 19th century to 1970s are available online at Old Maps. Although intended for the sale of maps, the free on-screen images can still be useful. An article in the Berkshire Family Historian, Vol 33, Sep 2009, page 18 describes how good use can be made of them.
An Historical Atlas of Berkshire, editor Joan Dils and Margaret Yates, Berkshire Record Society, 2012, ISBN 0 9548716 9 3, shows maps of: parishes, geology, administration divisions, agriculture, country houses, Poor Law areas, railways, roads, population, etc. Copies are held by Berkshire FHS and Reading Central Library.
A collection of 14th-19th century maps of Berkshire is provided free by Genmaps "for the personal use of genealogists and historians for study."
The UK National Inventory of War Memorials, based at the Imperial War Museum, London, is compiling a record of all war memorials in the UK to promote their appreciation, use and preservation. Their database includes the location, type, inscription and historical details of memorials, but no names of the dead and no photographs.
The Maiwand Lion war memorial in Reading for the Afghan War of 1880 is described by the British Empire site, Reading Museum and Roll of Honour (with photo and list of the dead). Maiwand: The Last Stand of the 66th (Berkshire) Regiment in Afghanistan, 1880 by Richard J Stacpoole-Ryding, ISBN 978 0 7524 4537 3 (available from Reading Central Library and Berkshire FHS) aims to be the definitive description of the battle and associated campaign, with a full list of participants and many photographs, very useful for anyone with ancestors involved.
Windsor & Maidenhead memorials.
The names on some Berkshire war memorials are available from Roll of Honour.
General information on geographical names.
Berkshire place-names and landowners in Domesday Book Online.
The Place-names of Berkshire - an essay by Frank Merry Stenton, Research Fellow in Local History, University College, Reading. Published 1911 by University College Reading; free online from Internet Archive.
Windsor and Eton Express - Surname and Public House index as well as full text articles from this newspaper from the early nineteenth century. Gives a good idea of the type of things you can find in the old local papers in the library.
General information about periodicals.
For photographs of workhouses, see The Story of Workhouses above and Historical Photographs.
This county is
updated 23 Nov 2013]
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