Thursday, 4 July 2013

TheGenealogist adds railway workers database

From TheGenealogist (

Did your ancestor work on Britain’s historic Railways?

It used to be every young boy’s dream to be a steam engine driver and many joined the Railways to achieve their dream or be a part of this exciting, fast developing industry.

Railway mania swept Britain in the 1800s as this new form of transport was developed. The latest records now available on TheGenealogist encompass nearly 1.5 million railway workers, with exact details on their job role and their date of birth. From station master to train guard, they’re all listed in the Railway records.

It’s the first time you can search all the railway workers in one online resource, allowing family historians to find their ancestors in what became one of Britain’s biggest growth industries of the 1800s.

Covering all levels of employment on the railways

The new records encompass all levels of railway worker from train driver, guard, signaller, office staff to labourers, literally anyone who worked on the railways in England and Wales.

The records are all fully searchable using the ‘SmartSearch’ features on TheGenealogist making it easy to find the records of your ancestors. It’s now possible to search by employer, by job title, by date of birth and by county to track down your railway ancestor. The keyword filtering option is particularly useful for narrowing down you search to specific job titles.

Head of Online Content at TheGenealogist, Mark Bayley comments: “The new railway records are a unique way to trace your ancestors from their occupation. Finding your ancestor here gives you a snapshot into how they lived and worked. If they were a highly respected engine driver or made a career in a support role, they were all part of an incredible time of change and development in Britain.”

COMMENT: I've just carried out a test search using the name John Smith (always works!), and in the first result returned I find a John Smith, who was a 25 year old 'labourer on railway', born 1816 and located at Snelson, Macclesfield, Cheshire. Useful as this may be, I can't see any information whatsoever on the return, the site, or within the press release, as to the actual source for this information, which is equally crucial for genealogists. I've emailed to ask for this, and will hopefully update accordingly. From what I can gather, this collection applies only to England and Wales.

(With thanks to David Osborne)

UPDATE: I've received the following on the source matter...

"The new Railway Workers Collection contains records from a number of different sources and various record sets, including TNA Cornish Railway Worker records, railway magazines, pension records, occupational and staff records and is part of a growing major collection on TheGenealogist which will expand extensively over the coming months. The new railway records will be available through our 'master search' by the weekend. It's currently available through our Occupational Records section."

I'm not a hundred per cent sure that that qualifies well enough for most genealogists I know looking to cite material in a client report! I have sent another message asking for further clarification - which archives are the records sourced from (is it TNA?), what accession numbers for the individual collections in question, what years for coverage, etc?

UPDATE 6/7/2013: Thanks to Nigel Bayley, managing director of The Genealogist, who has informed me that this is an early release from a collection that will become much bigger in the next few weeks and months, and that the source information will be made available in due course for the records contained within.


My new book, Tracing Your Irish Family History on the Internet, is now available from Pen and Sword. My Scottish land and church records ebooks are available at, whilst my next Pharos Scottish course, Scottish Research Online, starts Sep 4th - see Time to smash a few brick walls...!


  1. Thanks for sorting that out Chris. The original release didn't make much sense to me (1.5 million? All of a sudden?) and having a definite interest in railways and their staff, I asked a similar question to you and got a similarly nebulous initial answer.

  2. It's quite odd - source information is equally as important as the genealogical information contained within.

  3. Indeed, I was thinking of taking a sub but without sources it's useless. I have had some fairly meaningless correspondence with them too!

  4. I too am having correspondence as their site doesn't make it clear what is available. I have various railway ancestors and was thinking of re-subscribing having lapsed but in view of the costs at this rate I won't be!