Newly published data allows us to see into the daily lives of 19th-century Post Office workers

10 December 2021

With over 19,000 records live, people can now examine the health, retirement, and daily lives of Post Office workers in the United Kingdom in the 19th century.

The data mapper is part of the Addressing Health project, a collaboration between the University of Derby, King’s College London, Kingston University, University College London and The Postal Museum.

It draws on pension records and other sources of information from The Postal Museum to answer questions such as how many sick days workers took, what were the most common causes of retirement, and where did the oldest Post Office employees work.

Users can create their own maps of the workforce, searching by name, place, occupation and cause of retirement. They can also select and save groups of individuals, which can be downloaded, mapped and shared.

Kathleen McIlvenna

We can’t wait to see what discoveries others make with this data and we are delighted we can share it with anyone interested in the history of health and work in the 19th century.

Dr Kathleen McIlvenna
Lecturer in History at the University of Derby, co-investigator of the project
Dr Kathleen McIlvenna, co-investigator of the project and Lecturer in History at the University of Derby, said: “We’re so excited to be able to share this unique and fascinating data in an accessible and fun way.”

Gavin McGuffie, senior archivist at The Postal Museum, said: “Thanks to this project, some of our most important and most fragile records will be made much more accessible to the public. This new resource will be a major help for family historians and anyone interested more widely in the history of the Post Office workforce.”

Professor David Green, principal investigator of the project and Professor of Historical Geography at Kings College London, adds: “It’s so rare to find information on the health of people in the past, and to make this available freely to anyone is a real milestone for our project. Working closely with The Postal Museum has made this possible.

“We hope that many different users will find the information interesting and useful – from family historians and students undertaking projects to academics interested in the history of health and the workplace.”

Over 1,800 volunteers helped to photograph and transcribe original documents from 1858 to 1908 to create the online resource, along with project partners, the University of the Third Age.

The data mapper is part of the three-year Addressing Health project, funded by the Wellcome Trust Public Engagement Enrichment fund. The project team hopes to have over 30,000 records made available.