Researching Your Ancestor’s Industry
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 londonroll.org. 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 ( bit.ly/NorthantsShoes).
It’s also worth looking at the British Library’s collection of oral histories – including Crafts Lives, documenting the experiences of independent craftsmen ( bit.ly/BLcrafts and bit.ly/CraftsLives).
A worker at a Northampton shoe factory