Guild records

This guide was last updated in 2011

Guilds were a major institution in Britain’s commercial history and generated a great deal of records, many of which would be of use when tracing your ancestor.

Their records would detail the career history of anyone who belonged to that particular trade. Moreover, as it was usual that many generations of families would be employed in the same occupation you may be able to trace your family back several generations through guild records.

Surviving records will be found in local archives. London’s guilds had great power in the City of London and became known as livery companies (livery meaning the uniform worn by members of that particular guild).

Records for London’s guilds can be found at the London Guildhall Library. Further details can be found here, http://www.history.ac.uk/gh/livintro.htm. These include the following type of records (and similar types of records can be found in local archives):

Freedom Admission Registers

An individual became a freeman upon joining a guild. A person could be become a freeman if their father was a member, they had completed their apprenticeship or if they bought admission into the guild. These records would date when an individual was made a freeman

Alphabetical list of Freemen

These records would be generated for a large time period, not just one year or so.

Apprentice binding books

These books would list when an apprentice was bound to a master of a particular company.

Alphabetical list of apprentices

These records were similar to the lists of freeman in that they would only cover wide date periods, not a single year or so.

Quarterage books

These would list membership dues on a quarterly basis.

Court minutes

They would record the meetings held by the companies and may detail when individuals were made freemen. Some may be indexed.

Accounts

These would discuss the financial affairs of the guild.

Most records of guilds are not available online and you will have to visit the appropriate archive. Some livery companies still retain their own records and will not be found in archives. The Livery Companies Database is available online, listing the contact details for all the London livery companies.

The Goldsmiths’ Company in London has a guide on its website to researching family members who may have once belonged to the company.

 

 

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