Family History Information Directories in England. London

June 11, 2011 by gtsaviel  
Published in Family

Family History Information Directories in England.London.

Directories in various formats have been published for over 300 years and offer unrivalled information for both family and local historians. In Britain the first recognizable directories made their appearance towards the end of the 17th century and were chiefly concerned with listing traders and merchants. The first London directory a collection of names of the merchants living in and about the City of London was printed for Samuel Lee in 1677 and sold at his shop in Lombard Street,near Popes Head Alley.And by Daniel Major at the Flying Horse in Fleet Street. The first directory to be so called was the first edition of Henry Kent’s directory in 1743,listing London principal traders. It ran to 39 editions under Kent himself and was continued by others. Importantly it encouraged competitors and by the end of the 18th century nearly 50 directories wee published for London. Outside of London ,the major provincial towns began to produce directories from the mid-18th century. Birmingham was first with James Sketchley’s directory of 1763. Larger directories that attempted to cover areas larger than specific towns or cities started with the Norther Diectory in 1781.

Which was said to cover “every principal town from the River Trent to Berwick upon Tweed; with London andWestminster ,Edinburgh and Glasgow”. First directory offering national coverage appeared in 1784 as Bailey’s National Directory in 4 volumes. Between 1790 and 1799 John Wilkes’ Universal Directory appeared in fivemain volumes and 69 parts. The first directory of private residents and first to include a streets list was Boyle’s Fashionable Court Guide, published in 1792. The first full street directory was Andrew Johnstone’s London Commercial Guide of 1817: containing 27,000 names and nearly 81,000 entries (with names being repeated in the streets andtrades sections). It was not until the early 19th century that they really began to come into their own with the formation of relatively large directory publishing companies. James Pigot a Manchester engraver produced his first provincial directory in 1814; and between 1820 and 1853 produced a series of national dirctories issued on parts. Pigot formed a partnership with Isaac Slater,his one-time apprentice.

Most of Pigot and Slater directories were in the form of classified lists of trades. With the information being collected by personal canvass. These directories hold a wide range of local detail which can help researchers build up a picture of a particular area.

TheLondon Post Office Directory,initially called theNew Annual Directory was first publihed in 1800. In 1835 the copyright was sold to Frederick Kelly who was then chief inspector of inland letter carriers. 1841 Kelly’s Post Office Directory took the form for which it best known with the following sections: Commercial,Trades,Court(Later Private Residents) and Streets. The Court section listed private residential addresses but was very selective. Kelly’s Post Office London Directory only included the’top 10,000 citizens’. Around 1845 ,Kelly moved to producing provincial directories.

My top tip! very few collections either local or national are complete. The very nature of directory is that when a new edition came out the old one gets dumped. Not remarkably,single issues can be rare. Therefore do not rely on one single collection foryour research but see what volumes other libraries or online collections may have.

I hope this story can help you allwith your research into your family history and please share this with your family and friends.

George T Saviel

10 June 2011

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