If you are interested in the history of Oxford or one of the many towns and villages within the county, then here is a guide on where to start to discover what we hold.
Where to begin
Our own catalogue Heritage Search allows you to search by place or locality across all our collections and archives for resources held at Oxfordshire History Centre relating to your local history research
In the searchroom you can find:
- an extensive place name card index to the archive collection and a place name index to our maps
- catalogues of original material
- a selection of local history books, journals, photographs and illustrations for browsing
- microform material, local newspapers on microfilm and Oxford City Engineer’s Deposited Building Plans 1875-1921 on microfiche
- computers which provide access to subscription websites via the library service’s Reference Online, Ordnance Survey maps, local history websites and other indexes and databases not available over the internet
- staff on hand to give information and advice.
See below for further information about our collections.
Oxfordshire History Centre holds a wide variety of original archival material that can further local history research.
- Parish material, including overseers and churchwardens' papers
- Local government records including borough records and parish councils
- Quarter sessions and taxation records including Hearth Tax
- Schools records
- Electoral records
- Local organisations and business records
- Local manorial, estates and family records
- Private records
- Original historic maps.
If you are starting some local history research then finding out what has already been published is a good place to begin. Oxfordshire History Centre holds an extensive collection of books and pamphlets published on the local history of Oxfordshire, ranging from the works of 19th century local historians to recently published material. Our collection of local newspapers and periodicals also includes articles written on the local history topics.
If you are undertaking some original research, Oxfordshire History Centre holds a range of published sources including:
- local government publications
- parish magazines
- transcripts of original documents.
- Victoria County History
The Victoria County History
These volumes provide an introduction to the history of Oxfordshire, with detailed information about the city, University and short histories of parishes. Many volumes are available on the British History Online website. See the Victoria County History website
Maps are a good starting point for researching local history as they show development over time. A comprehensive range of Ordnance Survey maps are available through the computers in the searchroom and these can be printed out for a small cost. Oxfordshire History Centre charges.
Prior to the Ordnance Survey we hold original enclosure, tithe and estate maps. Estate maps became popular from the 16th century, enclosure maps date from the late 18th century and tithe maps date from the 1840s. Please note we do not have these maps for every parish, so please check before visiting. We have also made available online, our collection of District Valuation Survey maps and books which date from 1910.
For further information please see the guide to maps.
Photographic images and oral history
Many images are available to search online at Picture Oxon. A number of images are only accessible in the searchroom. There are browsers available on the open shelves which are arranged by subject and place.
Photographic fiche are available in the in the fiche drawers, which are arranged by place or by street, college or institution for Oxford city.
The oral history collections are also available to search in our online catalogue Picture Oxon.
If you are unable to visit in person, The History Centre runs an enquiry service to help you with your research. It is also possible to get copies of some material but please contact us about this for more details.
Where else to look
There are lots of sources of information that can help you find out about local history and the following list of organisations includes links to their own websites for further information.
Local History Societies
Many towns and villages in Oxfordshire have local history groups that are interested in researching their local area. As well as undertaking local research projects, they may organise an annual programme of talks, publish a newsletter, articles or books on their history, or even run a local museum or community archive. Most local groups are members of the Oxfordshire Local History Association and you can search for a local group via their website. There are also Oxfordshire wide organisations such as the Oxfordshire Architectural and Historical Society.
Many public libraries hold collections of books and other items that have been published about the local area and may provide access to online local history sources too. You can search the library catalogue online. Libraries vary in size and the amount of material they hold so always check opening times and availability before visiting.
Oxfordshire museums and galleries
There are about 40 museums in Oxfordshire, many with collections related to local history. You can find out more about local museums via Oxfordshire Museums Council
If you wish to take your interest in local history further and develop your research skills, you may wish to follow an adult education course, either by attending a class locally or enrolling on an online course. The Department for Continuing Education, Oxford University provide a range of local history courses.
Prior to 1974 the Vale of White Horse area was part of Berkshire, not Oxfordshire. The Oxfordshire History Centre does hold published local history on this area but historic records for the area remain with The Berkshire Record Office
If you are researching a local area on the border of Oxfordshire, you may also find useful sources of information in the local libraries or archives of neighbouring counties. County archives for areas adjacent to Oxfordshire are:
If you require any further information on where to start your research relating to Oxfordshire local history then you can email Oxfordshire History Centre enquiry service.