Direct resources

C19th Trades Directories for family historians, local historians and education

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Local Historians and members of the public researching family history have always found Trade Directories of the C18th & C19th to be an invaluable source of information about the local community. Most Directories contain information about the History and Geography of an area . But it is the wealth of detail concerning the people who inhabit the Directories' pages which attract most of today's readers.

By no means comprehensive, the Directories set out to record the "principal inhabitants" of a community, those in trade, or those affluent enough to be recognised as the important people in the community, such as the gentry or clerics, professionals etc. The ordinary men & women in a community rarely figure in these Directories .

Directories can be found in the Local History section of many county libraries, and most county archives keep copies of the Directories for their immediate areas. Directories may be found in bookshops specialising in rare or second-hand books, but as they are quite rare, they are also quite expensive.

The Directories have been compared to the phone books or yellow pages which we use today to find out information in order to save us time and effort, there are similarities, but there are also significant differences. Directories were put together by individuals for commercial purposes at almost random intervals during the late C18th and C19th. There must always be a question mark over the inclusion or exclusion of information. We shall never know the precise relationship between an entry in the Directory, say of a business, and the payment to the author of the Directory of a subscription for that publication. If someone refused to pay, did their business disappear from the list ?

There is no certainty, therefore, that the information they contain is either comprehensive or accurate, such information should always be cross-checked with other local sources such as Parish Records or the Census returns to establish as far as possible what the real situation was at the time when the Directory was complied.

Subject to these limitations, Directories are available to the Local Historian, Family Historian or anyone else with an interest the local community in the past. However, the information is not always in a very user-friendly format. The print is often very small and hard to read owing to the ageing process of the ink and paper, the Directory may be in alphabetical order as far as the "principal inhabitants" are concerened, but the listing then usually continues with a list of the "principal trades and professions" , making it quite difficult to spot a person's name unless you know their trades or profession. Should you wish to look at the composition of a particular street in one of the later Directories, then you will have a laborious task to scan the whole Directory and make a list yourself.


Thanks to advances in information technology, It is now possible to use simple databases on personal computers to re-format the information contained in the Directories , and to perform various searches and sorts on the information to make the information more accessible. At the touch of key it is possible to summon all the inhabitants of one street to appear in alphabetical order on the page, or to select all the people with the same surname from every trade and profession in the Directory, infact the possibilities are nearly endless.

The grand design ?

I have embarked upon a project to place on the computer all the major counties of Britain and the most significant towns and cities from those counties at or around the year 1848, in a series of databases in Excel and in other formats such as MS Works. or in text files.

Counties covered so far


Towns covered so far


Individual records


Number of A4 pages required to print out this information


(12/02/01 last updated)

I intend to make these resources available to schools, colleges, universities and other interested parties.

If you are interested E mail me at


For the range covered so far , click range.htm


See the Carlisle page for an example of the project in action click carlisle.htm


Other projects include :

Botchergate one of Carlisle's thoroughfares arranged into a database from the 1851 Census

click census.htm

Shipping at Carlisle in 1828

A list of all the 39 ships registered at Carlisle in 1829 with cargoes and students work sheets

click ship.htm