Wednesday, 12 September 2012

The Google of its day ...

The Historical Directories website is one of my family history favourites.  The 19th century directories from Wrights, Pigots, Whites and Glovers, really were the Google of their day covering everything from local businesses and every small trades person you could imagine to post delivery times, stations, pubs, theatres, church services, fire brigades, police stations, military regiments, charities, horticultural societies and, in Nottingham at least, the Antedulivian order of buffaloes!

They are fascinating just to browse through - I found an advert for some gorgeous lace curtains that I rather fancy! - but are really the best starting place if you want to discover more about where your family came from.

I am going to use the  Historical Directories website for a lot of my posts so I thought it was worth starting with a few tips on how to use the website as although it is really worth the effort it is not the friendliest in the world.  On the home page you are offered three search options as below - I think the easiest thing to do is search by location, i.e. the County of the parish or town that you want to find out about:

Once you've selected your county on either the map or a drop down list, you'll get a list of all the directories available for that county and you need to select one by clicking Directory on the right.  I found it easier to start with earlier directories as there's less information and later ones can be a bit overwhelming in the amount of information available:

When the directory opens you can chose between Search and Browse modes.  Initially, I would chose Browse which allows you to step through the images to the directory's main index.  The directory defaults to Search mode, so click Browse Directory on top right:

Once you've found the main index you can enter the page number of the place you're looking for or any sub-index you need to use in the Go To Image field.  All sounds easy enough so far but unfortunately the page numbers in the index don't directly relate to the image numbers you can enter so you will need to use the next and previous image buttons to go about 20 pages forward or back.

Hmmm, definitely starting to sound a bit complicated but the benefits are that if you're looking for a small parish or village you'll get a fabulous little summary snapshot which covers the life of the place in which your ancestors lived.  As this one below, for the village of Gedling in Nottinghamshire - in which my mother's family lived for time immemorial - which shows for example, that in the 1850s Gedling had: a couple of big houses, (one occupied by a "new money" industrialist); a pub - the Chesterfield Arms; a school with a separate class for infants; it's own local bobby - Angus Slater; a shop; a good number of farmers; a couple of competing black-smiths one of whom also made machines and was probably servicing the local framework knitters; a delivery service twice a week into Nottingham; and finally, a few very small-scale tradespeople including a framework knitter, a corn miller, 2 brick layers and my 3x great grandfather David Palethorpe who had just inherited his father's market garden following an acrimonious court case - but more of that in another blog!

If you've written a great post about trade directories please do add a link below:

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