Photograph of woman working in cotton mill, 1907 (Catalogue reference: COPY 1/509)

Most surviving historic business and trade records in the UK are held by local archives. There are specific guides covering occupations for which records are held at The National Archives in the Looking for records of a person section of our website.

  • What do I need to know before I start?

    • Try to find out:

      • the person's name
      • the geographical area where they worked
      • a date range to focus your search
  • What records can I see online?

    • Historical directories for England and Wales (1750-1919)

      Search Historical Directories, a digital library of local and trade directories for England and Wales.

  • What other resources will help me find information?

    • Website

      Browse GENUKI for a list of occupations in the UK and Ireland, with sources of further information for each.

Did you know?

From 1851 trades could be listed in the census in order of importance.

People often had multiple seasonal occupations. Records of seasonal, casual, or part-time work in the census are erratic, particularly the work of women and children, and in agriculture.

Very general terms are sometimes used in the census - such as 'labourer' - making it difficult to find a person's exact occupation.

Many trade directories survive.