England Locating Directories and Telephone Books (National Institute)

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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course English: Education,Health and Contemporary Documents  by Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Finding Directories[edit | edit source]

Archive and Library Holdings[edit | edit source]

Archives, reference and local history libraries usually carry long runs for their own areas and the bigger repositories have more widespread coverage. They can be contacted by post or email for look-ups. As an example, Bath reference library has an almost continuous line of directories from 1837. In London the Guildhall Library (Harvey), Society of Genealogists (Newington-Irving), and the British Library (catalogue at: The British Library) all have extensive collections. University libraries have eclectic collections depending on the nature of research conducted there and private donations; holdings of 24 major research universities, as well as the National Libraries of Wales and Scotland, are listed at Copac. Your local Family History Society probably has some print editions and possibly some CD collections. Facsimile Editions

The originals being somewhat rare and pricey there has been a good market for facsimile editions of 19th century directories, for example in the 1990s Winton produced many including:

1830 Pigot’s Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire
1831 Pigot’s Bedfordshire, Huntingdonshire, Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire
1830 Pigot’s Norfolk and Suffolk
1839 Pigot’s Essex, Herts and Middlesex
1840 Pigot’s Kent, Surrey and Sussex
1841 Pigot’s London and Suburbs

FamilySearch Catalogue[edit | edit source]

Much has been filmed or fiched from major collections such as the Guildhall Library and there are sections in the FamilySearch Catalog PLACE SEARCH for

    at the country, county and town levels. In many cases several from the same area have been sensibly arranged on one microfilm.

Electronic Versions[edit | edit source]

The University of Leicester is creating a digital library of local and trade directories 1750-1920 for England and Wales at Historical Directories. Hundreds are already online and searches can be done by name, address and occupation. They state:

The main considerations in selecting directories for digitisation were to achieve national coverage and also to integrate material from different institutions as a coherent online collection. National coverage has been provided for three date bands: the 1850s, 1890s, and 1910-1920, with one digitised directory from each period selected for each county and main county town.

This is a phenomenal resource funded by the National Lottery, the site and all searches and document downloads are free. They don’t have everything, though, and others can be found at other sites such as:

  • Sue O’Neill’s searchable Trade Directory Index which covers several Pigot’s directories for 1830 and Slater’s directory of Co Durham for 1854.
  • Direct Resources has provided surname indexes to trade directories of 40 counties around 1848.

Huge collections are available online, including the Universal Directory 1791.

Finding Telephone Books[edit | edit source]

British Telecom Museum holds an almost complete collection but sadly closed to the public in 1997. Similarly there used to be a Historical Telephone Directory Library in London but this seems to exist no longer. Wouldn’t it be nice if they digitized the lot and put them online! Other collections are available at Guildhall Library, London and the Bodleian Library, Oxford, and the Family History Library has a few telephone books from many countries and some have been filmed.

Local history libraries and archives should be consulted for their holdings. David and Charles have reprinted some early Victorian phone directories (1884-5) and these can be found in libraries or at auction (some were found recently at: John Townsend).

Tracking Families[edit | edit source]

Consultation of a long run of directories is preferable as it is then possible to ascertain when a business started, its address and any name changes over the years, removal to another location and its disappearance. When the name of the proprietor is first given then one can follow up with records of his training or freedom of the city, and on disappearance of the name look for emigration or death and probate. When a business changes its name, it is wise to investigate whether this is because a widow remarried, or it has been inherited by a son-in-law.

Searching a series of directories is particularly useful for dating photographs having a studio address, because studios may not have stayed in business very long at any one location.

The study of a series of directories can help us better understand our ancestors’ lives as we recognize the urban changes, industrial developments, population movements, appearance and disappearance of congregations and so forth that would have had a profound impact on them (Thomson).

The items shown in the charts below show the value of finding as many as possible of these old directories plus subscription lists, alumni lists etc. in order to follow the family. West’s Village Records, dealing with Chaddesley Corbett in Worcestershire, is a superb affirmation of this principle.

On a related topic, if you have the name of a country house but don’t know where it is located try consulting a contemporary gazetteer (your FamilySsearch Center should have at least Lewis 1831, Wilson 1870 and Bartholomew 1952 on fiches) or Webb’s Index of English Country Houses.

Chart: Jupp Family in 18th Century London Directories

1766 A List of the Liverymen of London with their Places of Abode, Collected from the last Poll for Chamberlain.
Red Lyon Street, Clerkenwell
JUPP, Richard
Carpenter['s Company]

1789 List of those Members of the United Company of Merchants of England, Trading to the East Indies who stood as qualified Voters on the Company's Books the 14th April 1789
Mr. Richard JUPP (2 votes) King's Road, Bedford Row

1789 Andrewe's New London Directory []
JUPP, William
No 11 Clements Lane

1789 Lowndes London Directory [Film 0950,412]
JUPP, Richard
6 King's Road, Gray's Inn Lane
JUPP, William
Clement's Lane, Lombard Street

1790 Lowndes London Directory [Film 0950,412]
JUPP, RIchard
6 King's Road, Gray's Inn Lane

1790 List of Patrons of the Anniversary of the Charity Schools
Mr. Richard JUPP King's Road

1796 A List of the Livery of London alphabetically arranged with their respective Companies and Places of Abode; taken from Poll-Books of Last Election and from Lists of Different Companies.
JUPP, Richard
Carpenter['s Co]
King's Road, Bedford Row
JUPP, RIchard Webb
Carpenter['s Company]
New Ormond Street

1800 Browne’s General Law List for the Year 1800
[Includes businesses of use to lawyers, such as Company Halls and officials, and coffee houses]
Carpenters Hall, London Wall, 1st Tues.
Clerk Mr. Richard Webb JUPP, Attorney, at the Hall.

Chart: Topping Family in 18th Century London Directories

1707-1712   A List of Scholars of St. Peter’s College, Westminster as they were elected to Christ Church College, Oxford, and Trinity College, Cambridge

Admitted to St. Peter's, Westminster 1707

Elected to Christ Church, Cambridge 1712

Kent’s Directory [of London, Westminster and Southwark]

Topping, Timothy
Seedsman, London Bridge
Topping, Charles
Seedsman, Leadenhall Street

1760 Hitch and Hawes
A Complete Guide to All Persons who have any trade or concern with the City of London and parts adjacent

Topping, Timothy
London Bridge
Timothy, Charles
Leadenhall Street

Kent’s Directory [of London, Westminster and Southwark]

Topping, Timothy
Seedsman, London Bridge
Topping, Charles
Seedsman, Leadenhall Street

1765 The Court and City Kalendar or Gentleman’s Register
The Common Council of London
Bridge Ward 15

1790 Wakefield’s Merchant and Tradesman’s General Directory for London, Westminster, Borough of Southwark and Twenty-two Miles Circular from St. Paul’s
TOPPING, Timothy

Toppings' Wharf,

Tooley St.


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course English: Education,Health and Contemporary Documents offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at wiki@genealogicalstudies.com We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.