Check telephone directories
In the 21st century, when most of us are utterly dependent on our smartphones, it can be difficult to imagine how our ancestors functioned without any telephone at all. Even as recently as 1970, only 35 per cent of households owned a telephone. However, you may be able to find a relative in Ancestry’s collection British Phone Books, 1880–1984 from BT Archives ( bit.ly/anc-phone-books), or in TheGenealogist’s collection ‘Trade, Residential & Telephone’.
An entry in a phone book can indicate a rise in a family’s personal fortunes. However, it is not just individuals who are listed in telephone directories, but also businesses, charities, schools and other institutions – and even if your ancestors did not have a personal telephone, they may well have used one at their place of work. In addition female ancestors, whose occupations are often not apparent in formal records, are frequently well-represented in telephone directories. And traditionally female-dominated businesses, such as millineries, laundries, music-teaching and dressmaking, make regular appearances.
A telephone directory from 1960 showing the telephone number and address of Sir Winston Churchill