Trade Directories

Finding a tradesman

The focus of Jeanette's last line of enquiry was tracking down her grandfather's occupation...

We were able to piece together a lot of information from certificates, and had a look for information on historical trade and street directories, such as Kelly's or Pigot's.

These were compiled as early as the late 18th century to list the addresses of retailers, shopkeepers, farmers and other principal traders, and start to survive in numbers from the mid 19th century onwards.

Not everyone was listed, but they do provide a good starting point for your research if you suspect that your relative owned a shop or business. Many cities had their own directories, and local or city archives are the best place to start looking.

A searchable database of many directories can be viewed at www.

complicated, but illustrates some of the common problems when we rely too heavily on oral history passed down through the family. It also shows the importance of cross-referencing sources and using addresses to pinpoint relatives, rather than just relying simply on name data alone. Having settled on this family as being correct, based on a further sweep of the birth indexes and census records, we decided to see if we could learn a little more about the family.

Once again, our luck was in; indexes to the 1851 Census for Liverpool had been compiled by the local family history society, so I created a list of Thomas Gillisons in the same area and started to manually search the reels of film. I found a possible match living in Adlington Street of the right age, employed as a tobacconist and lodging with his

CAUGHT IN THE ACT: Nick and Jeanette search for Thomas Gillisons in microfiche records ABOVE RIGHT: A census return lisiting Thomas and Elizabeth Gillison

BELOW LEFT: His service card gives James' date of birth as 25 December 1905 BELOW RIGHT: William's letter to Jim holds tantalising clues to his family father, also Thomas Gillison, a widower aged 60 who was employed as an iron moulder. None of the other Thomas Gillisons were of the right age.

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