BT Puts Old British Phone Books Online

BT, the former British Telecom, has put its archived telephone books dating back to 1880 online. BT partnered with the subscription-based website, Ancestry UK, to offer a searchable database that will eventually include 250 million names from throughout the United Kingdom.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Okay, it's finally happening. We are about to pass time on this program by reading the phone book.

LYNN NEARY, host:

In particular, it is the Greater London Phone Book, circa 1911.

INSKEEP: That 1911 book has a listing for Harry Houdini, the handcuff king. His home number was Gerard-1312.

NEARY: The 1926 London phone book has a listing for Alfred Hitchcock, and his number was Brixton-3807.

BT, formerly British Telecom, posted more than a century of phone books along with the Web site Ancestry U.K. The Web site's Simon Harper says the book reflects a different time.

Mr. SIMON HAPRER (Ancestry U.K.): You could ring up Churchill himself in Paddington-1003. In the very early editions, numbers weren't published and the operator will be able to tell you, I'm sorry, Churchill's not in at the moment, and you'd call again.

INSKEEP: The hope is that people will now pay a few pounds out of curiosity while tracing their ancestors.

You've got our number, it's MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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