Identify the place

This guide was last updated in 2012

Identifying the particular institution where your ancestor lived can sometimes be tricky. Homes could be known by several different names and, over the years, could change their name or location.

If you know the town where a home was situated, a local trade directory may help pinpoint the one in question. The ‘Trades Directory’ section in many Kelly’s directories includes a ‘Homes’ section listing the various homes operating in the area.

A large collection of trade directories is available free at while sites such as are increasingly adding trade directories to their resources. Old Ordnance Survey maps often identify larger institutions, with being a useful resource for this purpose.

Usually, it will become apparent whether a home was run by an organisation such as Barnardo’s, an occupational body, religious group, etc. Homes run by boards of guardians – the local workhouse authority in each poor law union area - usually include the word ‘Union’ or ‘Guardians’ in their descriptions but never ‘orphanage’.


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