Before the internet and before telephone directories, if you needed to find a local tradesman or business, you looked in a trade directory. They have been produced for over 300 years – pre- dating the census – and can be a great source of information about the communities in which your ancestors lived. The University of Leicester has a collection at specialcollections.le. ac.uk/ cdm/landingpage/collection/ p16445coll4. These are some of the oldest documents surviving in the UK – in some counties they may stretch from the 16th century to 1972, when the quarter sessions were replaced by crown courts. They cover a huge amount of local administration relating to taxation, wage control, lists of local officials, through to the prosecution of felony crimes, offences against local bylaws and many other transgressions. If your ancestor broke the law, worked to uphold it or depended on a legal licence of some kind to carry out their business, then there’s a good chance of finding out more about their lives here. Search at your county archives for more information.