Transcribing the health histories of Victorian postal workers

Central Telegraph Office, General Post Office, London, Source: Illustrated London News, 12 Dec 1874

Addressing Health is a collaborative project between academics and archivists at King’s College London, Kingston University, University of Derby, University College London and The Postal Museum. It examines the pension records of thousands of postal employees in the Victorian and Edwardian period and will be the largest study of occupational health in the UK service sector in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Through the Zooniverse platform academics are inviting the public to join in their aim of uncovering the lives of our postal ancestors. The pension records, held in The Postal Museum, chronicle the working lives and retirement of tens of thousands of employees. Through this project the files have been digitised and made available online for the first time. They are unique because of the vast amount of personal information they contain, including the location and occupation of the pensioners, the reason for and date of their retirement, their length of service, and details on periods of sickness before retirement.

This collaboration between academics, archivists and the public will allow us to understand the shifts in the health of the Post Office’s workforce. This will in turn transform our understanding of wider patterns of morbidity and mortality during this important period of epidemiological change.

Gavin McGuffie, Senior Archivist said:

“The Postal Museum has gained hugely from working with volunteers to enhance access to its stories and collections on site, so we are really excited about expanding this to remote volunteering as part of the Addressing Health project. This is particularly important as the COVID-19 pandemic has led to the temporary closure of the Museum. The database of postal workers produced will be hugely valuable to our understanding of occupational health in the UK service sector in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It will also benefit the many family historians with relatives who worked for the postal service during the Victorian and Edwardian period, who use The Postal Museum’s services.”


On 2 February 2021 the Addressing Health project participates in Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine’s annual ‘Transcription Tuesday’ event with an aim of achieving 20,790  transcriptions. The project will use the Zooniverse crowdsourcing platform to transcribe pension records that reveal lives and health of postal workers during the Victorian era. For ‘Transcription Tuesday’ the project is challenging the public to complete the transcription of pension records covering the years 1860-1862.