Trade directories

This guide was last updated in 2010

It is sometimes possible to trace your shopkeeper ancestor’s entire career through trade directories (annual lists of local trades and businesses).

You may be able to locate the address of the shop and discover how long the business occupied a particular premises, whether there were any partners, or if one member of the family took over from another.

Trade and home addresses can be compared to see whether your ancestors lived above the shop, and searching either side of your ancestor’s entry can tell you who else was operating in the street. If you have rough dates for your ancestor’s employment, you may be able to see whether they worked for the same employer throughout.

Trade directories are usually held in the relevant local or county record office. Some are available online at and on subscription sites like, and A good national collection is held at the Guildhall Library in London.

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