Photograph of a blacksmith shoeing a horse, 1900 (Catalogue reference: COPY 1/447)

This is a brief guide to researching records of an apprentice or master. Official records of apprentices were kept in England and Wales between 1710 and 1811, when stamp duty was payable on indenturesindenture (of apprenticeship) - a legal document whereby a master agreed to instruct the apprentice in his trade for an agreed number of years. of apprenticeship. RegistersRegister - a volume of regularly and formally recorded information of the duty paid were kept by the Commissioners of Stamps.

  • What do I need to know before I start?

    • Try to find out:

      • the name and date of birth of the apprentice
      • in which area they were apprenticed and where the stamp duty would have been paid
  • What records can I find at The National Archives at Kew?

    • Apprenticeship records of the merchant navy (1824-1962)

      Consult BT 150 for indexes of apprentices registered in the merchant service between 1824 to 1953.

      The earlier volumes give:

      •  the apprentice's name
      • age
      • the date and terms of his indenture
      • the name of his master
      • the port where he signed on and the name of the ship (in later volumes only)

      Browse BT 151 and BT 152 for samples of the original indentures, including some for fishing vessels.

    • Apprenticeship records in the Admiralty (19th century onwards)

      Browse records such as

      • ADM 12 under the headings 'Boys' (code 13) and 'Apprentices in Dockyards' (code 41.16)
      • ADM 1 and ADM 106 
      • ADM 73/421 and ADM 73/448 for apprenticeship registers
      • CSC 10 for marks and results of examinations of dockyard and artificer apprentices from 1876
    • Board of Trade papers (1846-1895)

      Find references to apprenticeships in the indexes to papers (BT 19). Read the catalogue details for BT 19 to find related correspondence from various departments of the Board.

    • Poor Law union indexes and papers (1836-1920)

      Find mentions of apprenticeships in the index of subjects (MH 15). This index may help you find additional related papers of individual Poor Law unions in MH 12

      These records relate to children of paupers and orphans who were apprenticed out by the guardians and overseers of the poor. They frequently relate to administrative and policy issues.

  • What records can I find in other archives and organisations?

    • Apprentices of London companies

      Visit the London Metropolitan Archives for apprentices of London companies who became freemen in the registers of the Clerk of the Chamberlain's Court, Corporation of London, from 1681 to 1923.

    • City livery company apprenticeship records

      Go to the Guildhall Library website for information about apprenticeship records of individual livery companies.

    • Records held locally

      Look for records of apprenticeships sponsored by a parish or local charity, in local and county archives. These apprenticeships were exempt from stamp duty and do not appear in apprenticeship books.

      Search the Access to Archives (A2A) and National Register of Archives (NRA) databases to find records held in local archivesregional archives, libraries, and museums. Refer to ARCHON to find contact details of local archives.

  • What other resources will help me find information?

    • Books

      Read Tracing your ancestors in The National Archives by A Bevan (The National Archives, 2006).

      Read Sources for local historians by Paul Carter and Kate Thompson (2005).

    • Websites

      Search London Apprenticeship Abstracts 1442-1850 on the Origins Network website (subscription required), which contains some records of London livery companies.

    • Journal articles

      Read 'The City Boys: records of London apprentices' by C Webb and E Churchill (Ancestors, 21, 2004).

Did you know?

Where the stamp duty was paid in London, entries are in the city (town) registers. Where it was paid elsewhere, entries are in the country registers.

If the apprenticeship was in Middlesex or one of the home counties the duty may have been paid in London and the details entered in one of the London registers.

From 1710-1811 the master paid stamp duty for taking on the apprentice.  The payment could be made at the start of the apprenticeship or any time up to one year after the expiry of the indenturea legal document whereby a master agreed to instruct the apprentice in his trade for an agreed number of years.

You might therefore need to search the records of several years' payments to find a particular entry.

The rate was 6d (sixpence) for every £1 under £50 which the master received for taking on the apprentice, and the rate of 1s (one shilling) for every £1 above £50. The indentures on which duty was payable cover Great Britain but not Ireland.

You may not be able to find records for common trades such as weaving or other 18th century industries because

  • informal indentures became increasingly common with fathers often teaching sons and nephews
  • the Statute of Apprentices only applied to trades which existed when it was passed in 1563