Have a look at local trade directories

This guide was last updated in 2009

Trade directories, some of which date back several centuries, may list your ancestor along with his or her selected trade.

Most commonly produced annually (and therefore able to give you a much fuller picture than the census), these directories often list tradesmen under the heading of their occupation, and also often include street directories, which will help you to establish the length of time that your ancestor spent in one place.

You can see from trade directories whether your ancestor had any business partners, who else was operating from the same premises and how many people were involved in that particular trade at the same time as your ancestor. You will also be able to see what those living round about were doing to earn their keep.

The best place to search local trade directories is in the local or county archive (local to the business, of course, rather than to you). The Guildhall Library in London also houses an impressive collection of directories from all over the country. To find the relevant archive, have a look at:  www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/archon

There is also a collection of historical directories online at:  www.historicaldirectories.org

You may also find local directories relevant to you by running a search on the internet.


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