Direct resources

C19th Trades Directories: a resource for family historians, local historians and education. 

These materials are prepared and maintained by Dr David Foster.

This site has several key pages, click a link below for more information:





This page: general information about the project

All the settlements covered in this project

Sample of census data processed


Family History

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.

Principal inhabitants

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 .

Rare, and expensive

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.


Commercial purposes

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.


Local History

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 concerned, 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.


Possibilities of information technology

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, in fact the possibilities are nearly endless.

The grand design ?

I have embarked upon a project to place on the computer all the counties of Britain and the most significant towns and cities from those counties at or around the year 1848, in a series of databases compatible with MS Works. or in text files capable of being read by programmes such as Excel . All 40 English Counties have been covered in their entirety using a variety of directories. To date, more than 6460 English towns & cities and 926,681 individual records have been processed.

In addition both North and South Wales, plus the Isle of Man, Ireland have been processed in their entirety with every settlement turned into a database. Some counties of low land Scotland have been processed too, and the rest will be completed eventually.  Thus far 1,162,400  individual records have been processed.

For the range covered so far, click range.htm

For an example of one street from Leeds in 1847 click here brig.htm

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

A typical advertisement from the directories

(07/11/21) 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

Other projects include :

A PhD thesis completed in December 2002 at the university of Exeter based upon trades directories and women's work entitled:

Albion's sisters: A study of trades directories and female economic participation in the mid-nineteenth century


This thesis is based upon a study of a large database of materials extracted from mid C19th trades directories constructed by the present author. In total over 450,000 records were processed from 626 settlements and placed into a five field database covering all 40 English counties The reliability and the uses to which the directories are put to are explored along with an investigation of the various methods for linking records both with and without computers. A record linkage study is described, using materials from the author's directory database and a database constructed from census material. A description of the processes involved in creating the database is given, with examples of its coverage across all 40 English counties. A central theme of the thesis is the economic participation of women in the mid C19th economy, and to that end, a selection of relevant historical studies of women's involvement in the economy is discussed. A chapter of the thesis is devoted to a detailed investigation of the presence of women in the directories. Chapter 8 uses the raw data from the directories' database and selects from it all the occupations noted against women's names. This data is collated and examined county by county to assess to what extent assumptions about "women's work" are confirmed by the information contained in the directories. In addition, a Booth Armstrong classification system is applied to the women's data and conclusions are drawn from it.


A snapshot of Botchergate one of Carlisle's thoroughfares arranged into a database from the 1851 Census. This should give you an idea of how to construct a simple database of census material.

Many family history societies produce transcripts of local censuses, but few have been compiled into machine searchable data sets. Perhaps this will inspire you to help your local family history society.

click census.htm

(NB This is merely a sample of the whole data set)

Shipping at Carlisle in 1828

Another idea for a project ! Here is a list of all the 39 ships registered at Carlisle in 1829. The full data set is available with cargoes and students work sheets. For a sample of this project click SHIPNAME.htm

For one ship’s details from the register click ship.htm

(NB This is merely a sample of the whole data set)