Saturday, October 18, 2014

Trade Directories

I have spent some of the last few days adding links to trade directories for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to the Family History Records Online website

The earlier trade directories tend to deal with the wealthier citizens in the locality and have basic information, but by the middle of the 19th century the entries get a great more detailed.

This is the first page of the 1766 Liverpool Directory 

which is at  Whilst interesting in its own right there is not a lot of detail and it only includes the head of the most important households in Liverpool.  Still, it does give surname, name, title (if any, such as Captain), occupation and address.  These directories do however, give a snap shot of the main occupations and a flavour of the era in an area. James Almond was both 'house carpenter' and also an 'overseer of the poor', whilst others were a 'block maker' (used in shipping's rigging), 'esquires', 'slopman' and 'officer of the customs'.

The second example is from White's Leeds Trade Directory of 1848.  Just by comparing the directories from a distance the Leeds example is more densely packed with information and includes a much greater number of people.  This is partly because of the rapid growth in population, but also because the directory includes a wider range of people - including middle class shop keepers and those on modest independent incomes.  Even David Hoyle, the sweep gets included - unthinkable in the 18th century directories.

The addresses are also more precisely defined, with a house number and road - though beware!  At this date the numbering could vary depending on where the numberer started - one end of the street would produce different numbers to if they started at the other end.

Through the rest of the century the basic format stayed the same, though there could be sections (and replication of detail) for occupations, and also straight street directories. 

The following is part of a page from the Post Office Directory for London in 1914

This page shows the people living in street and in the numbered houses.  By this stage the house numbers had become more of less fixed - an accidental consequence of the Post Office needing standard numbering to deliver to the correct addresses.  The Street Directory element can also show where ancestors lived, what status they had and even if they married the girl next door!

By the middle of the 20th century the number of trade directories was reducing, but coming through were the telephone directories.  Today with more and more on-line there are fewer and fewer paper records for future historians to consult.

There are various collections on the web, the links to which are

England and Wales-

Scotland -
Northern Ireland -


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