Making the best of more time at home

Extract from St Albans 1861 census
The pigeons outnumber the shoppers at the Saturday market in St Albans during the Covid-19 outbreak
Malcolm Merrick

The Government’s earnest request to everyone not to go out means, not surprisingly, that most of us have more time to spend at home.

It’s good to have some variety in the daily round. When you’ve finished shampooing the cat, there are all sorts of opportunities to pursue your own interest in history from home. 

Some ideas

Family history

Many of you may already started research into family history, but if not, now is an ideal time to start, using one of the popular family research sites, such as Findmypast or Ancestry.  

British Library’s newspaper collection

You could spend some time browsing 36 million digitised pages of the British Library’s newspaper collection. The collection is of immense benefit to local historians, whatever their interests. Coverage for the British Newspaper Archive starts around 1700 and finishes in the late 1900s. You will find for example 40 years of the Herts Advertiser have already been posted as well as pages from hundreds of other newspapers from around the British Isles (and some from India, the West Indies and Canada). Stories range from the local – cats stuck up trees – to international wars and epidemics. Please click here from further details. Subscriptions cost £12.95 for one month, £25.92 for three months or £72.00 for one year. If you do join and find something of local interest, consider writing a note for the Society’s newsletter or website. We can help you with that if you wish.

Covid-19 archival material

You could collect material relating to Covid-19 in St Albans etc for future deposit in the Library: e.g. examples of government and SADC printed information documents, marketing material from local businesses turning their operations on a sixpence to help out, e.g. pubs and shops offering home deliveries for the first time, leaflets, cards and other material relating to  local community groups set up to support neighbours during the Covid-19 outbreak; even personal cards/notes from one’s neighbours.

Photographing the changing scene

On your permitted excursions for exercise, you could take photos to record changes in your local environment and beyond (e.g. shop notices, deserted roads, unpolluted skies). If you’re interested, let us know; we’d like the opportunity to select some of them for our photo archive.

Online photo collections

Browse some of the excellent collections of old photos and images available on line. Society member Andy Lawrence has a particularly good collection of St Albans photos on Flickr. The website Britain from Above is well worth a browse – as the name suggests, it specialises in aerial photos. You might be able to help them identify the location of some of the images they’ve been unable to place.

Historical podcasts

Listen to some of the historical podcasts available on line, and perhaps recommend some that you’ve heard yourself. Why not try the British History Podcast, curated by Anglo-American Jamie Jeffers, or Neil Macgregor’s Germany: Memories of a Nation. Peter Burley, VP of the Society and co-author of the book about the battles of St Albans, recommends a recent publication about the life of Henry VI available in audio format. If you have some personal favourites you’d like to recommend, why not share them, by sending details to

… or just Google

Google some interesting websites, or download the Victoria County History’s smartphone app ‘History of English Places’.

Even better, let us have your own ideas via, and we’ll pass on the best to other members.