Other Sources For Family History

The BPMA holds other useful sources which can help to paint a fuller picture of postal history and can help add detail to your ancestor's life.

Post Office Magazines 1850 - Present

The Post Office magazines are available on the shelves in the Search Room and includes information about employees.

The Post Office magazines began in 1850 with the Blackfriars Magazine. Intended as a way of communicating events among Post Office staff, it consisted of sketches and essays, biographical tales, poetry, stories and announcements. Staff were able contribute atricles to the magazine.

In June 1890 the Blackfriars Magazine was replaced by a new magazine for the Post Office, entitled St Martins-le-Grand, the Post Office Magazine. Published quarterly, it was intended to appeal to a wider audience. In April 1892, it began to include details of retirements, deaths, appointments and promotions as standard. The magazine was wound up in 1933, and from this date on another publication known simply as The Post Office Magazine was published.

The Post Office Magazine included advertisements, photographs, news, poetry from readers, and articles on what was happening in the various offices and departments around the country. It was stopped on the outbreak of war but resumed again in July 1946. The last issue of The Post Office Magazine was issued in September 1966, when it was replaced by Courier as the Post Office staff newsletter.

The Courier contains national and regional news and features and was intended to keep staff in touch with news, sport and recreation in the Post Office. It celebrated its 40th birthday in 2006 - see our online exhibition for a great selection of front covers.

If there is a particular volume you are interested in and you can't find it on the shelves in the Search Room, please ask a member of staff as we may have the copy you require in the repository.

Post Office Guides 1856-1986

Our annual Post Office Guides - and its predecessor the British Postal Guide - list post offices throughout the United Kingdom (and Ireland), showing the different services offered by each post office.

The guides also provide information on postal regulations for inland and foreign and colonial mail, and other information relating to all Post Office services. These guides are available in the Search Room for reference.

If there is a particular volume you are interested in and you can't find it on the shelves in the Search Room, please ask a member of staff as we may have the copy you require in the repository.

Visual Reference Collection 1890-Present

The Visual Reference Collection held at the BPMA consists of thousands of images, from the early 1900s through to the late 1990s. Most are photographic prints, of actual photographs, but also of notices, maps showing the circulation of mail, postal-themed paintings and much of the poster collection.

These images can be used to add detail to an ancestor's life in the Post Office - from what uniform they wore, what their job was like, and what their place of work may have looked like.

Our Visual Reference Collection is available to consult in the Search Room.

Post Office Circulars 1861 - 1969

We have Post Office Circulars available on the shelves in our Search Room. Circulars were issued as a way of giving instruction to staff. Many of them include details of appointments, promotions and vacancies of senior workers, such as Postmasters. The list of appointments include their old position and where they moved to.

During World War One and World War Two, the Post Office Circulars list those lost in action and those awarded medals. If your ancestor was a postal employee and fought in the war, the Circulars may provide more information about him or her.


Within the BPMA Search Room we have a small library. This includes:

  • Reference Library - covering general postal history and transport which includes rail, air, and sea;
  • Biographies - notable postal personalities such as Tony Benn, Anthony Trollope and Sir Rowland Hill;
  • Wartime - books on the British Army Postal Service, the Post Office Home Guard and the Post Office Rifles;
  • Local postal history - books on street names, the London Encyclopaedia, the topography of London, and various local postal history societies' publications;
  • Journals - including those of the Travelling Post Office Society and the Forces Postal History Society;
  • Philately - a large collection of philatelic volumes.

Portfolio Collection

The Portfolio Collection holds material that has been drawn from a wide variety of sources. These include copies of previously researched information such as press cuttings (magazines and newspapers), photographs, plans, papers and copies of some archive records.

This material covers a wide range of topics, relating to almost every imaginable aspect of the Post Office, from the local histories of post offices in Great Britain, to the employment of women and the duties of the Post Office cats!

It is especially useful as a source of visual material, with many photographs that are extra to those held in our official Photographic Collection. The Portfolio Collection is constantly being updated.

GPO Film Unit 1933 - Present

The GPO Film Unit was founded in 1933 and headed by documentary film maker John Grierson.

The GPO Film Unit covered subjects such as transport and communications in Britain and abroad, the home front during the Second World War, British industries, the nation's health, and developments in the Post Office service itself. Films such as Housing Problems, Workers and Jobs and Coal Face focus on some of the social issues facing a rapidly changing Britain in the 1930s.

You are able to view part of the GPO Film Unit collection in the Search Room, including classics such as the 1936 film Night Mail. Night Mail shows the overnight journey of a post train from London to Glasgow with a score by Benjamin Britten and rhythmic verse by WH Auden.

You can also view more light-hearted films such as The Fairy of the Phone where the titular fairy gives useful hints as she tiptoes along the wires giving instructions to subscribers on how to use the telephone. Although there is little direct link to family history, the 1930s films help us understand the postal world at that time.

A selection of films made by the GPO Film Unit can be purchased from our Shop on DVD.

You may also be interested in...

GPO Films on DVD

GPO Films on DVD

Classic films made by the GPO Film Unit now available on DVD

Six DVDs featuring more than 40 films made by the acclaimed GPO Film Unit. Includes Night Mail and London Can Take It!


Imperial Service Medal

Imperial Service Medal

A brief history of the Imperial Service Medal

The Medal was awarded to civil servants, including selected long-standing Post Office employees, upon retirement.




The highlights of our collection of more than 100,000 photos

Dating from the 19th century onwards, our photo collection is a fascinating social document of British life.


Forward To A Friend



Number of items: 0
Total price: £0.00

Mind Unit - websites, content management and email marketing for the arts