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Local history

Northern Ireland landscape Map from the PRONI archives A local mill and water wheel
For many people, the way into local history has been through tracing their family history.  The family historian wants to know about the history of the locality where their ancestors lived but equally the local historian is interested in finding out about the families in their locality.
Local history is all about telling the story of people and places over time.  It should aim to trace the origin and growth and sometimes the decay of a local community.  This approach will help you to ask the right questions and to adopt a professional style to the work rather than just gathering facts.
If you are just beginning your research, read our local history: getting started, areas, regions and land divisions and local history: key sources sections first.  You may also find it useful to read what are archives and records and using the archives.
Local history researchers may will also find useful information in the Local History Series of leaflets.  There are 10 in total, each giving information on various archives which can be used for local history research.  The Your Family Tree Series of Leaflets (28 in total) will also be of interest.  Each leaflet is a PDF document – you can download the whole series and use them as a reference file if you wish.
In addition to using the archives we have specifically identified, you can also consult the catalogues, guides and indexes to widen your search.

What is available online?

The Ulster Covenant archive and Freeholders records held by PRONI have been digitised and indexed and are available on the PRONI website.  These online archives are fully searchable and have links to digitised images of the original documents.  
A project to index and digitise 1858 - c1900 wills from the District Probate Registries of Armagh, Belfast and Londonderry is almost complete.  Phase one - an index to the wIll calendar entries (grants of probate and letters of administration) - is now available on the PRONI website.  Phase two - to link the will calendar entries to the digitised images of the wills - will follow shortly.  
Local history researchers can use these sources to examine, for example, occurrences of surnames within a particular area.