Hughie Grame

Roud Folk Song Index

The Roud Folk Song Index is a database of 300,000 references to over 21,600 songs that have been collected from oral tradition in the English language from all over the world. It is a combination of the Broadside Index (printed sources before 1900) and a "field-recording index". It subsumes all the previous well-known printed sources known to Francis James Child and more recent recorded audio sources from 1900 to 1975. Related songs are grouped under the same Roud number. The more ancient songs tend to occupy low numbers, but songs which are obscure are given higher numbers. This explains why "Sheath and Knife" (Child 16) is Roud 3960. If a trusted authority gives the name of a song but doesn't give the words, it is assigned Roud number 000. Until early 2006 the index was available only by subscribing to a CD, updated periodically. It can now be found at Vaughan Williams Memorial Library Online

Steve Roud is the Local Studies Librarian in the London Borough of Croydon. He was formerly Honorary Librarian of the Folklore Society. He is the co-author of A Dictionary of English Folklore (2005, ISBN 0-19-860766-0). Starting in 1993 he input various fields to a database, listing the source singer (if known), his locality, the date of noting the song, the publisher (book or recorded source), plus other fields. In the past few years the numbers have been widely accepted in academic circles. The Traditional Ballad Index at the California State University at Fresno includes Roud numbers up to number 5000. In many respects it is more informative than Roud's database, as it contains comments, but it draws on fewer sources. For example Steve Roud shows 22 sources for "Hind Etin" (Roud 33, Child 41), but the Traditional Ballad Index shows only one source.

For many who encounter folk songs only through modern CDs it comes as a surprise to discover that "Brigg Fair" (Roud 1083), "I'll Tell Me Ma" (Roud 2649) and "Cuckoo's Nest" (Roud 5407) are all undocumented before 1898. The most modern folk songs were still being discovered in the 1970s in the Ozark Mountains. Max Hunter's collection lists 1,600 such songs, but each minor variant is given a distinct number, making comparisons difficult. James Madison Carpenter's collection has 6,200 transcriptions and 1000 recorded cylinders made between 1927 and 1955. The index gives the title, first line and the name of the source singer. When appropriate, the Child number is given. It is still a largely unexploited resource, with none of the recordings easily available. There are several other indexes of songs, but probably Roud will eventually include all of them. Dozens of historical tune-books have been indexed, but nobody has yet attempted to bring them all together in one index. They are outside the scope of Roud's work.

List of folk songs by Roud number

Numbers 1 to 100

Numbers 101 to 200


1000 to 9999

Over 10,000

See also

External links

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