Researching Your Own Theatrical Ancestors
Below are some useful links for your own Theatrical Family Ancestry Research
Probably the first place you should look nowadays is the British Newspaper Archive which has a vast collection of digitised British newspapers from 1800 to 1900, they also have the ERA archive which is a hugely useful resource for finding countless reviews, adverts, and dates for your theatrical ancestors performing around the UK. It's free to search but you do have to register and pay to view the actual pages. Even so it's a lot easier than trawling through microfiche copies in the few libraries which hold the ERA archives in their original paper form.
Likewise the Stage Newspaper has covered the workings of the entertainment industry in the UK since 1880 and their Online Archive will be invaluable to people searching for details of their performer ancestors and the shows they were in.
You will find a great deal of information on Music Hall performers at John Culme's excellent website Footlight Notes.
The UK Census online Website is a great place to start searching the UK's Census information from the early 19th century.
And the UK National Archives have much Census information from 1841 to 1901 here.
Archives site may be of help to those in the USA.
Unfortunately the Theatre Museum is now closed but the collection is still held at the Victoria & Albert Museum and may be of help to you in your research.
The Scottish Theatre Archive at Glasgow University continues to expand and can be searched and contacted here.
A new website is now online, created by Ted Loveday, with details and programme covers for some 13,500 productions in hundreds of Theatres throughout the UK and abroad. The database covers productions that the scenery builders Brunskill & Loveday LTD produced sets for, during the 20th century - A fantastic resource for anyone wanting to know which shows were in which Theatres and when.
Many local Libraries have information on local performers and Theatres, and Newspaper archives are hugely informative and useful, especially good are the Mitchell Library in Glasgow, The British Library Newsroom at St Pancras, Westminster Reference Library, The British Library itself, and The Times Archive.
You may find the following pages from this site of interest: