How to look for records of... People in business and trades

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

Pay for research

Use our paid search service or find an independent researcher

Visit us

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

Most surviving historic business and trade records in the UK are held by local archives. There are specific guides covering occupations for which records are held at The National Archives.

What do I need to know before I start?

Try to find out:

  • the person’s name
  • the geographical area where they worked
  • a date range to focus your search

What records can I see online?

Historical directories for England and Wales (1750-1919)

Search Historical Directories, a digital library of local and trade directories for England and Wales.

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

There are specific guides covering occupations for which records are held at The National Archives.

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?

Records held elsewhere

The National Archives’ catalogue has details of collections held by over 2500 archives across the UK. Search our catalogue and refine your results using the filters.

What other resources will help me find information?


Browse GENUKI for a list of occupations in the UK and Ireland, with sources of further information for each.

Did you know?

From 1851 trades could be listed in the census in order of importance.

People often had multiple seasonal occupations. Records of seasonal, casual, or part-time work in the census are erratic, particularly the work of women and children, and in agriculture.

Very general terms are sometimes used in the census – such as ‘labourer’ – making it difficult to find a person’s exact occupation.

Many trade directories survive.