Source Information

Original data: Midlands Historical Data collection of Trade Directories. Tony Abrahams.

Midlands Trade Directories 1770–1941. Midlands Historical Data, Solihull, West Midlands.

About UK, Midlands and Various UK Trade Directories, 1770-1941

This database contains trade, city, and other directories, primarily from the Midlands area in England.

Historical Background

Trade directories in England trace their history back to the late 17th century, when volumes such as the Little London Directory of 1677 listed names of merchants and tradesmen “for the Benefit of all Dealers that shall have occasion with any of them; Directing them at the first sight of their name, to the place of their abode.”

Trade directories were originally produced to help promote and facilitate trade and commerce. A directory would include a general description of the town or area as well as details on local transportation, churches, schools, government offices and officials, shops, and businesses. Sometimes information on specific people, such as businessmen, traders, shopkeepers, was included as well.

Later directories began to include sections on private residents. At first this mainly consisted of the wealthier and more prominent individuals. Eventually the directories became more comprehensive and more residents, especially householders, were included regardless of social status.

Most of the volumes in this database are trade directories from the Midlands area—Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, and Worcestershire — but you will find some directories from neighboring counties and a few national directories as well. You’ll also find city and other specialized directories in this collection.

What You Can Find in These Records

Directories are great sources for locating people in a particular place and time. They are especially useful in between census years and for earlier years when censuses don’t exist.

Details listed in directories varied over time and with the book’s purpose, but they may include

  • name
  • occupation
  • city
  • region
  • year
  • address/street/road

You can also find plenty of ancillary details about a place: shops, businesses, groups and associations, histories, advertisements, even places being promoted for the medicinal advantages of their climate. These can help paint a picture of the time and place your ancestor inhabited. Though you should keep in mind that directories, especially older ones, were not necessarily comprehensive and did not list everyone living in a particular area.

The index for this database was created using text recognition software. Records were not transcribed.