Southampton is the largest city in the ceremonial county of Hampshire on the south coast of England, and is situated 75 miles (121 km) southwest of London and 19 miles (31 km) northwest of Portsmouth. Southampton is a major port and the closest city to the New Forest. It lies at the northernmost point of Southampton Water at the confluence of the River Test and River Itchen, with the River Hamble joining to the south of the urban area. The city, which has been a unitary authority since 1997, has a population of over 253,500 as estimated in 2013. The city's name is sometimes abbreviated in writing to "Soton", and a resident of Southampton is called a Sotonian.
Southampton is noted for its association with the RMS Titanic, the Spitfire fighter aircraft, and more generally in the World War II narrative as one of the departure points for D-Day. More recently it has become known as the home port of a number of the largest cruise ships in the world.
Southampton's port is its largest industry (see the Wikipedia article), but significant employers in the city of Southampton also include The University of Southampton, Southampton Solent University, Southampton Airport, and Ordnance Survey, producers of highly detailed maps for almost two centuries.
For more information, see the EN Wikipedia article Southampton#History.
After the establishment of Hampshire County Council, following the act in 1888, Southampton became a county borough within the county of Hampshire, which meant that it had many features of a county, but governance was shared between the Corporation in Southampton and the new county council. There is a great source of confusion in the fact that the ancient shire county, along with its associated assizes, was known as the "County of Southampton" or "Southamptonshire". This was officially changed to Hampshire in 1959 although the county had been commonly known as Hampshire for centuries. Southampton became a non-metropolitan district in 1974.
The city has undergone many changes to its governance over the centuries and in 1997 it once again became administratively independent from the County of Hampshire when it was made into a unitary authority. This was one of the facilities of 1992 Local Government Act. The district remains part of the Hampshire ceremonial county.
Areas and suburbs
Southampton is divided into council wards, suburbs, constituencies, ecclesiastical parishes, and other less formal areas. Wikipedia has this map of Southampton with suburbs located in its section Geography.
In the 19th century, the city was divided into civil parishes based on its even older ecclesiastical parishes: Southampton St. Mary, Southampton All Saints, Southampton Holy Rood, Southampton St. Michael, Southampton St. Laurence, and Southampton St. John. Southampton St. Laurence and Southampton St. John merged into one ecclesiastical parish in 1708 (Southampton St. Laurence with St. John), but Southampton St. Laurence (often spelled Southampton St. Lawrence) was a civil parish from an unspecified date (probably 1837 or 1866) until 1912 when Southampton County Borough took over the civil registration duties carried out by the ecclesiastical parishes.
St. Mary Extra and Southampton St. Nicholas was located respectively east and north of the city. St. Nicholas was only a civil parish between 1920 and 1925. These church links may be found in old parish and civil records. They are useful to identify what part of the city a person was living in. A website provided by FamilySearch named English Jurisdictions 1851 outlines all these parishes as well as the surrounding ones with the usual civil parish names.