Re­search­ing Your An­ces­tor’s In­dus­try

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There are a wealth of on­line re­sources for in­ves­ti­gat­ing pro­fes­sions

If you have Lon­don ances­tors, a good first step is to visit the Records of Lon­don’s Liv­ery Com­pa­nies On­line (ROLLCO) web­site lon­don­ This project is cre­at­ing a search­able on­line data­base of ap­pren­tices and freemen of the City of Lon­don’s liv­ery com­pa­nies, dat­ing from about 1400 to 1900. Among the com­pa­nies rep­re­sented are the Bowyers’ Com­pany, the Cloth­work­ers’ Com­pany, the Drap­ers’ Com­pany, the Sal­ters’ Com­pany, the Gold­smiths’ Com­pany, the Tal­low Chan­dlers’ Com­pany and the Mercers’ Com­pany.

County record of­fices of­ten have archival col­lec­tions de­posited by lo­cal com­pa­nies and as­so­ci­a­tions, as well as per­sonal fam­ily pa­pers that may re­late to spe­cific trades. Search their on­line cat­a­logues with key­words, and you may be sur­prised by the re­sults.

Lo­cal mu­se­ums are also a ter­rific re­source for ex­plor­ing re­gional in­dus­tries. Un­for­tu­nately, Northamp­ton Mu­seum & Art Gallery, a great place to find out more about the town’s his­tory of shoe­mak­ing, is closed un­til the end of 2019, but there are images from its col­lec­tion on Flickr (

It’s also worth look­ing at the Bri­tish Li­brary’s col­lec­tion of oral his­to­ries – in­clud­ing Crafts Lives, doc­u­ment­ing the ex­pe­ri­ences of in­de­pen­dent crafts­men ( and­sLives).

A worker at a Northamp­ton shoe fac­tory

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