Street history: how to use trade directories and electoral registers


28 May 2020
Gill Blanchard explains how to use trade directories and electoral registers in combination to find out more about the people who lived on your street in years gone by.

Trade directories and electoral registers can be used in combination to find out about a neighbourhood. Early directories typically list prominent residents, landowners and tradespeople and provide short parish histories, but include few specific addresses for rural areas.

They became more comprehensive over time with separate trade, commercial and street listings. By the late 19th century, they  provide a good listing of heads of household and specific addresses. County directories were last published in the 1930s, but town and city street ones continued into the 1980s. 

Electoral registers

Electoral registers date from 1832 to the present day and list every adult eligible to vote in local and parliamentary elections. Although they only provide a partial picture due to restrictions on the right to vote based on rateable and rental values, age, and gender, that in itself allows a glimpse of social changes and types of properties as the franchise was gradually expanded. 

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See county record offices, the Guildhall Library, Aldermanbury, London EC2V 7HH, Society of Genealogists, British Library and online at the Historical Directories website (England & Wales) and commercial genealogy companies.

Gill Blanchard is a professional house historian and author of Tracing Your House History (Pen and Sword Books) et al. You can receive this book for FREE when you subscribe to Family Tree magazine today. Click here to claim this offer today.