You can use historical directories for genealogy and family history in many ways. The most useful is finding where your ancestors lived and what their occupations were.
Historical street and business directories first appeared in the late 1600s, but they didn’t become widespread until the early 1800s when they were printed on a regular basis. There were four main companies that published directories regularly – Slater’s, White’s, Pigot’s and Kelly’s.
In the earlier directories, only the rich and important business people were included. However, towards the end of the 1800s more residents and businesses had entries.
So, what information can you find in historical directories?
- Name & Address
- Businesses & Employers
This information can be used to fill in gaps in census records. For example, if your ancestor lived at an address in 1901 but you can’t find the same ancestor at the same address in 1911, it might be worthwhile trying to find them in a directory that was published in-between 1901 & 1911. For example, if your ancestor lived in Staffordshire, you could try searching Kelly’s Staffordshire of 1904 to see where they have moved to. It should be quite easy as you will probably already know your ancestor’s occupation from the census records.
Where can you find historical directories?
Historical Directories of England and Wales 1766-1919
Free access to online directories. This collection has recently been moved from the www.historicaldirectories.org website, where it no longer be available soon. You can see your search results online or download a PDF version of the directory you want. Most PDF browsers will allow you to search for names within the downloaded document.
English Trade Directories of the the 19th Century
The Counties covered by this data base are the Pigot’s Trade directories of 1830, Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Cheshire, Cornwall, Cumberland, Durham, Huntingdon, Northampton, Northumberland, Oxford, Westmoreland, Wiltshire & Worcester.
Also included in this database is Slater’s 1854 Trade directory of Durham County and the English Electoral Polls.
If you have an Ancestry subscription, there are many city and area directories available to search there.
Scottish Post Office Directories has over 700 digitised directories from 1773-1911, free of charge.
There are various Irish Street Directories on the Library Ireland website.
Belfast Street Directories covering the years 1819 to 1900, also free to view.
I’ll also try to add as many local directories as possible in the near future. Here are some to start with: