Yorkshire (YKS) in the north-east of England is the country’s largest county and is named after the county city of York, this being an abbreviated form of the Viking name Jorvik, which was itself a variation of the Anglo-Saxon name Eoforwic.


The county was historically split into ridings – the name 'riding' is of Viking origin (the Vikings occupied this part of England for many years) and is derived from Threthingr meaning a third part. The three ridings in Yorkshire were the East Riding (ERY), West Riding (WRY) and North Riding (NRY), the East and North Ridings of Yorkshire being separated by the River Derwent and the West and North Ridings being separated by the Ouse and the watershed between the rivers Ure and Nidd. (N.B. There never was a South Riding, although there is a well-known work of fiction with that title by author Winifred Holtby).



In 1974 the three ridings of Yorkshire were abolished and York, which had been a county in its own right, independent of the three ridings, was incorporated into the new county named North Yorkshire. The capital of the old North Riding was Northallerton which became the administrative headquarters for North Yorkshire. 

Another newly created county named Cleveland included Middlesbrough (which once contained 25% of the North Riding population) Guisborough,Hartlepool and Stockton from County Durham, north of the Tees.

At the same time most of East Yorkshire, based around the city of Kingston-upon-Hull was combined with North Lincolnshire to form a County named Humberside.

Cleveland County and Humberside were abolished in 1996 and the old ridings were restored.

Excellent maps showing the parishes within each riding and within the city of York are available from http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/YKS/Misc/Maps/ParishMaps.html

Contiguous counties

Yorkshire is bordered historically by:

On the north


On the north-west

Westmorland (now part of Cumbria),

On the west

Lancashire (and now Greater Manchester),

On the south-west

Cheshire (although this is contracted and does not now border Yorkshire) Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire

On the south

Lincolnshire, with the Humber providing an obvious boundary (and via river traffic, a major communications artery) at the eastern end



Berkshire FHS holdings for Yorkshire

The Centre for Heritage and Family History allows access to several online UK-wide census and parish register services, the National Burial Index and resources from the LDS church; in addition the library catalogue contains many items directly relating to Yorkshire; there are some specific out-of-print gems, such as:

The Lost Towns of the Yorkshire Coast

(Thomas Sheppard, 1912, 1986 reprint)

A History of Hull

(Hugh Calvert, 1978)

The Development of Kingston-upon-Hull through Contemporary Maps

(Humberside CC)

(12 maps from 1610 to 1906)

In addition there are the more general holdings, of which this is a selection to give an appreciation:

1851 and 1861 Census indexes (on the census/IGI shelf)

(A5 booklets published by local family history societies, a useful supplement or probably trustworthy alternative to the online sources)

Gazetteers: The King’s England by Arthur Smee,

3 volumes North Riding, West Riding and East Riding, with descriptions of individual villages.

A volume listing all the available Yorkshire Parish Registers by Colin Blanchard Withers, including Bishops Transcripts, where these are deposited, and IGI coverage

A Guide to Parish Records in the Borthwick Institute of Historical Research by CC Webb (University of York).

A4 handlist of Yorkshire birth briefs.

A selection of A5 booklets of Parish Registers data (many around Hull), Monumental Inscriptions, Yorkshire Families, Yorkshire Occupations and some Hearth Tax records. 

Fiche (we do have a fiche reader) of:Yorkshire burial indexes

York marriage index (1701-1837)

City of York poll book 1820

Criminal register index vol 24 (1781-82)

Musters of Yorkshire militias 1781-82

West Riding – return of owners of land 1873 

A full list can be found in the library catalogue which can be accessed by clicking here.



Yorkshire Archives

Borthwick Institute

Contains one of the biggest archive repositories outside London.


Borthwick Institute
University of Yorkshire

YO10 5DD
Tel: +44(0)1904 321166

North Yorkshire Records' Office


Record Office
Malpas Road
Tel: +44(0)1609 777585

West Yorkshire Archives


Headquarters in Wakefield and offices in Bradford, Leeds, Calderdale (Halifax) and Kirklees.

WYAS Wakefield Office

Registry of Deeds

Newstead Road



+44 (0)1924 305980

WYAS Bradford

Bradford Central Library

Prince’s Way



+44(0)1274 435099

WYAS Calderdale

Central Library

Northgate House




+44(0)1422 392636

WYAS Kirklees

Central Library

Princess Alexandra Walk



+44(0)1484 221966

WYAS Leeds

Chapeltown Road




+44(0)113 2145814


Yorkshire Family History Societies

The Federation of Family History Societies has a comprehensive list of Yorkshire FHSs, currently there are 22 listed, mostly in the West Riding, but covering all areas, and including a group representing all of these which meets regularly on the Society of Genealogists, London.

The full details are available from:


 Page reviewed December 2018  

Additional information