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London Apprenticeship Abstracts  1442-1850   Basic search
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London Apprenticeship Abstracts 1442-1850
What are the London Apprenticeship Abstracts?
Records of the Livery Companies of London are one of the greatest archival treasures of the world. Dating from the early medieval period to the present, they provide a mass of information on innumerable subjects. For the family historian, they can provide an immense amount of genealogical and biographical details on members.

The Abstracts provide information from the apprenticeship records of a number of the livery companies selected because the records generally give good genealogical detail, principally, the name, parish and occupation of the apprentice's father.

For a given livery company, the abstracts will generally end about 1800 or later, depending on the coverage of the manuscript volume containing that year. In some cases records cease before 1800.

Over 165,000 of these record abstracts are contained in the database, with over half a million names indexed: apprentices, their parent, and masters. In nearly every case, the father (more rarely the mother) of the apprentice is given, with their place of residence - which can be anywhere in the British Isles or overseas.

Less than 30% of the "London" apprentices actually came from the London area, though the proportion varies significantly between the different companies. For example, the Blacksmiths' and Fishmongers' apprentices include over 33% from London and Middlesex, compared to just under 31% for the Butchers, and under 21% for the Grocers.

It should be borne in mind that an apprentice's master does not necessarily follow the trade indicated by the company name. While it may be tempting to think that the prestige of a company might affect the number of apprentices coming from outside the Metropolitan area, this does not seem to be the case, for the Grocers' is the second of the "Great Twelve" livery companies while the Fishmongers' is the 4th.

In early records, persons who belonged to a given livery company would generally practice the trade to which that Company referred, but after about 1650, it became more and more common (until in some companies virtually universal) that members practised another trade altogether. Searchers, therefore, even if they know the occupation of the subject of interest, may not be able to find the right livery company to search at all easily.

Example abstracts and what they tell you
The London Apprentices Abstracts contain the name of the apprentice; his father's (rarely the mother's) name, place of residence (parish or town, county, and country, if not England); father's occupation; the name of the master and the date of the indenture. If the father was stated to be dead, this is indicated. If the record notes that he was subsequently turned over to another master, or, as is sometimes recorded, became free, died etc, this is also noted.

The value of these abstracts is best illustrated by this example below:
Bernard Ackett, son of Richard, [living at] Sherborne, Hampshire, [father's occupation] husbandman, [apprenticed to] Francis Gray, Armourers' & Brasiers' Company, [date of indenture] 31 May 1713
Both direct and indirect assertions can be made from this record.

Direct inferences from the record
  1. Bernard Ackett's father was Richard Ackett
  2. Richard Ackett and Bernard Ackett were living at Sherborne, in the county of Hampshire, in May 1713
  3. Richard Ackett's occupation was a husbandman
  4. Bernard Ackett was apprenticed to Francis Gray on 31 May 1713
  5. Francis Gray was a member of the London Livery Company of Armourers & Brasiers. (This does not necessarily mean that he actually was an armourer or a brasier, or that Bernard Ackett became a practicing armourer or brasier.)
  6. Bernard Ackett, Richard Ackett (probably) and Francis Gray were all alive on 31 May 1713 [NB The abstracts generally say if the father is dead]
Indirect inferences, made from a knowledge of what the record implies
  1. Bernard Ackett was 14 [to confirm] years old or more on 31 May 1713, implying he was born before 1700.
  2. Bernard Ackett moved from Hampshire to in or near London shortly after 31 May 1713
  3. Richard Ackett was almost certainly over 30 years old on 31 May 1713, implying he was born before 1683
  4. Richard Ackett was [most likely] married before 1700
  5. Francis Gray probably lived in [or near] London in 1713
  6. Francis Gray was probably over 25 [to confirm] years old on 17 May 1713, implying he was born before 1687
Further indirect inferences, with lower probability
  1. Bernard Ackett [may have] resided in London until around 1720
  2. Bernard Ackett [probably] resided at same address as Francis Gray for approx. 7 years from 31 May 1713
  3. Bernard Ackett may have become "free" to practice his trade in about 1720
  4. Bernard Ackett may have married someone with the surname Gray [around 20-30% of apprentices married their master's daughter]
  5. Bernard Ackett was born [reasonable possibility] in Hampshire
For more example abstracts and a list of the Livery companies included see About London Apprenticeship Abstracts