How to look for records of... Businesses

How can I view the records covered in this guide?

View online

How many are online?

  • None
  • Some
  • All

Order copies

We can either copy our records onto paper or deliver them to you digitally

Visit us in Kew

Visit us in Kew to see original documents or view online records for free

Pay for research

This guide tells you how to look for records of businesses. Most business records are kept in local archives, if they survive. You can use our catalogue to search for records of businesses held in local archives or look up the contact details for a business repository using Find an archive.

What do I need to know before I start?

There are three types of incorporated companies: registered companies, chartered companies and statutory companies.

Not all businesses are incorporated as some businesses are not companies.

Business records can include the following:

  • dates of incorporation and dissolution
  • annual reports, accounts and correspondence files on staff and clients

What records can I see online?

Live registered companies

For basic information, search the Companies House website by company name or number for a company in the United Kingdom.

What records can I find at The National Archives at Kew?

Companies Registration Office records (1844-1980)

Search the Companies Registration Office records (BT 31 and BT 41) for information about the registration and dissolution of companies between 1844 and 1980. These records include registered companies only and are not the records of the companies themselves. Not all survive.

To access these records you will either need to visit us, pay for research (£) or, where you can identify a specific record reference, order a copy (£).

What records can I find in other archives and organisations?

British Library

Search the British Library online catalogue for histories of British companies.

Records held locally

The National Archives’ catalogue has details of collections held by over 2500 archives across the UK. Search our catalogue using keywords, you may need to refine your results using the filters.

Local libraries

Many local libraries have copies of trade directories from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries which can be useful when trying to trace a business’ exact location or existence. These do not tend to have any information about individuals.

What other resources will help me find information?


Consult published Stock Exchange Yearbooks from 1875 onwards to track a company, the growth of a sector or the state of the economy as a whole.

Read Bibliography of British Business Histories by Francis Goodall (Ashgate, 2005).


Browse the Historical Directories website for a business in the 18th, 19th century or early 20th century.