Next to finding a mention of a forebear's name is the thrill of learning more about where and how they lived. Maps, contemporary reports, historical background, architectural notes, property descriptions and much more can all build up a picture.
The joy of a CD is that instead of ploughing through different chapters there will often be a search facility to pinpoint whichever aspect interests you most. But don't forget that you might find an unexpected pearl if you just browse a little.
Originally in four volumes, The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland 1868 (£19.95) now fits onto a single CD. The location of each settlement is briefly described, along with historical notes and details of contemporary schools and churches. Parishes that had, by 1868, disappeared or been amalgamated are included, as well as some very small hamlets now incorporated into towns and villages. So family historians puzzled by a place name may find answers here.
Compiled by J P Smith and originally published in 1930, The Genealogist's Atlas of Lancashire (£9.95) contains maps of hundreds, parishes and townships within the historic Red Rose county. The lists of non-parochial registers give the denomination, the date of the earliest entries and publication, if applicable. Most (apart from the Roman Catholic records) seem to have been deposited at the Public Record Office (now The National Archives). Although it is likely that more records have come to light or been published since 1930, these lists are a handy guide to possible sources of genealogical information.
The 28th Middlesex (Artists') Rifle Volunteers was formed in 1860. Initially it mainly consisted of men in the creative arts. During the First World War it became an Officers' Training Corps. Originally published in 1921, Artists' Rifles of Honour (£14.95) provides details of men killed in action or who died of their wounds, medals and decorations awarded, promotions from the ranks and whether they had been in service before 1914.
Over 5,000 Old Etonians fought in the Second World War and they, along with members of staff who served, all appear in A List of Etonians Who Fought in the World War 1939-1945 (£14.95). It gives details of their rank in December 1945, where they served, any decorations or medals awarded and, if they died, whether this was a result of enemy actions of some other cause. Additional information, such as their house at Eton and the date they left, may also be useful.
Like and standard trade directory, Kelly's Southampton 1913-1914 Directory (£14.95) contains a brief history of the town, information about local government, institutions and charities as well as listings of private residents and businesses there and in the surrounding area.
In addition to lists of Tradesmen and businesses (including Edward Elgar's father who ran a music shop in Worcester), Littlebury's Worcestershire 1873 Directory (£14.95) also contains some population figures. As a bonus, it includes abbreviated trade lists for major towns and cities outside the county, including Birmingham, Bristol and Gloucester, with which Worcester had important links.
The exansion of London created by the 1888 Local Government Act moved a number of places from the county to the metropolis, changes which are reflected in Kelly's Essex, Hertfordshire and Middlesex 1894 Directory (£17.45). This volume is a useful source of information on the whereabouts of people between the 1891 and 1901 censuses. Otherwise it is a standard Kelly's Directory, containing descriptions of individual places, Poor Law Unions, county councils, councillors, and lists of the main traders in each town or village.
Probably compiled just before or at the beginning of the Second World War, London 1940 Post Office Directory (£17.45) is a very useful guide to researchers trying to find out where families and businesses were before the disruptions of the war. It also includes telephone numbers. The first disc contains government and other official organisations as well as places of worship, private residents and solicitors. The second names further professionals and businesses.