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Apprenticeship Agreements, Trade (Occupations)

Nature of Source

Records of apprenticeship agreements (indentures) made between a master and apprentice. The master entered into a legal agreement to offer the apprentice training in his trade for a set amount of years and for a sum of money. Two copies of the indenture were produced for each party.

The majority of surviving records are from registers kept by the Board of Stamps and Taxes (Inland Revenue) following the Stamp Duty Act (1710-1815). The Act imposed a levy on apprenticeship agreements and centralised the registry of indentures. If the tax was paid in London (irrespective of where the master lived) then the entries were recorded in the city or town registers maintained in the London office. If the tax was paid in the regions then the entries were recorded in the country registers which were also maintained in the London office but submitted at intervals to London. The city registers could include entries from the whole of England but especially Middlesex and the home counties as well as Wales and Scotland.

The Act did not apply to parish or charity sponsored apprenticeship agreements or those where the fee was less than one shilling. The registers are housed at The National Archives in series IR 1 and are arranged chronologically by area. Indexes are available at the Society of Genealogists and at the Guildhall Library and online (see below).

Apprenticeship records are also kept in the Court Minute books of livery companies and guilds. The Statute of Artificers and Apprentices between 1563 and 1814 regulated the apprenticeship system which stipulated that an apprentice must serve at least seven years before practicing his trade, they had to be over the age of 10 but under 18 and be the son of a freeman.

Many indentures remain in private hands and those before 1710 are mostly lost. Many apprentices were trained by their father or relative so no formal indenture exists. Even after the Stamp Duty Act many avoided the tax and are therefore not recorded as are many occupations that were not subjected to the apprenticeship system.

Also look for the records of the King's Freemen which relate to discharged servicemen given special privileges to trade in towns and cities across Britain. Those given the right to trade were not officially Freemen but merely granted the right by the Crown. The rights also extended to the man's wife and children. The records contain the man's discharge papers and marriage and baptism certificates for the wives and children. The records begin around 1749 and extend to 1816. The London Metropolitan Archives holds about 4,000 sets of discharge papers of servicemen permitted to trade in the City of London with a name index. For more information see the online leaflet 'King's Freemen' and their Records in the CLRO'.

See also
Business & Company Records
Guilds, Freedoms & Freemen's or Burgess Rolls

Where Found

The National Archives (IR 1, Stamp Office returns including indexes of masters and of apprentices names. Records within this series are available to download free of charge as part of the Digital Microfilm project)
Society of Genealogists (Apprentices of Great Britain indexes [Series 1 and 2] extracted from the tax records held at The National Archives in series IR1, 1710-1774; The Crisp and Clench Collection of bound original apprentice indentures scanned and indexed by Colonel F Wall; Collections of local and company transcripts. See SoG online catalogue for full coverage)
County Record Offices
Guildhall Library (The Apprentices of Great Britain index)
Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies (Apprentices' Indentures Subject to Tax and Index to Masters 1710-1774)
Company records
National Records of Scotland (Edinburgh indentures, 1613-1783. The National Records of Scotland was created on 1 April 2011 by the amalgamation of the National Archives of Scotland [NAS] and General Register Office for Scotland [GROS])

Period Covered

1265 - 1900

Genealogical Value

Master's name, address, place of work and occupation; Name and address of the apprentice; Name, parish address and occupation of apprentice's father, guardian or widowed; Details of the agreement.

Further References

Barlow, Jill (ed). A Calendar of the Registers of Apprentices of the City of Gloucester 1595-1700: Bristol & Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, 2001 Buy Now on Amazon
Crossley, Alan. Oxford City Apprentices, 1513-1602: Oxford Historical Society, 2012  Buy Now on Amazon
Durie, Bruce. Documents for Genealogy & Local History: The History Press, 2013  Buy Now on Amazon
Emm, Adele. Tracing Your Trade and Craftsman Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians; Pen & Sword Books, 2015
Lane, Joan. Apprenticeship in England, 1600-1914: Routledge, 1996  Buy Now on Amazon
Raymond, Stuart. My Ancestor was an Apprentice: Society of Genealogists, 2010  Buy Now on Amazon
Thompson, Kathryn. Apprenticeship and Bastardy Records: Historical Association, 1994

TNA Research Guide: Apprenticeship records

Websites (National Archives of Scotland Research Guide: Crafts and trades records) (Guildhall Library: Sources of information on apprenticeships held in the Library) (Sources for Tracing Apprenticeship and Membership in City Livery Companies and Related Organisations) (The Guilds and Apprenticeships, by Dr Richard Evans) (Skills Funding Agency: Apprenticeships in Britain c. 1890 to 1920) (Apprenticeship documents, by Lisa Spurrier) (Research Wiki: Apprenticeship in England) (Life in Elizabethan England: Apprentices) (Staffordshire Apprenticeship Records Background) (Getting Your Indentures - The Life and Times of the 'Poor' Apprentice) (UKGDL Occupations/Trades/Apprentices: Links to online transcriptions records dealing with a variety of trades and occupations with some data extracted from trade and street directories) (Ancestry Message Boards: Occupations)

Online Databases (London Lives: Apprenticeship Records) (Register of Duties Paid for Apprentices' Indentures, 1710-1811 extracted from The National Archives series IR 1) (TNA Digital Microfilm: IR 1, Board of Stamps: Apprenticeship Books. Digital Microfilm allows free download of records which were previously available only on microfilm in the reading room)
(London Apprenticeship Abstracts, 1442-1850. The record set comprises ancestors who were apprenticed to various livery companies in London. The records may reveal the trade your ancestor was learning, when he was apprenticed, his master’s name and where he was born. The abstraction and indexing of these records has been undertaken by Cliff Webb, with the exception of the Apothecaries' Society, which was undertaken by Patrick Wallis. The original records can be accessed from the Guildhall Library)
(Britain, Country Apprentices 1710-1808. Discover your ancestor in the registers from the Board of Stamps from the whole of Great Britain. The registers recorded the tax paid for each indenture for an apprentice. Each record includes a transcript created by the Society of Genealogists from the original registers found at The National Archives) (Datasets include: Electrical Engineering Apprentices & Trainees, 1902-1934. Search for ancestors who trained with the electrical engineering company Metropolitan-Vickers at Trafford Park, Manchester between 1902 and 1934; City of York Apprentices and Freemen 1272-1930; London Apprentices from Dorset, 1605-1799; Gloucester Apprentices, 1595-1700; London Apprentices from Somerset, 1575-1800; Apprentices of Great Britain, 1710-1774 produced in association with the Society of Genealogists. The Society has partnered with to publish online record sets from its unique collection. For more information on the available records see here. Members of the Society will be able to view the records for free at SoG Data Online via their existing membership) (SoG Data Online: Apprentices of Great Britain Series: Datasets include: Basic Index to Apprentices, 1710-1773; Rekeyed Index Apprentices and Masters, 1710-1811; Crisps Apprenticeship Indentures, scanned and indexed. Members of the Society of Genealogists are able to view these records for free via their existing membership. Non-members can carry out free surname searches but will need to join the society to view the full record details) (Apprenticeship and Master Records, 1710-1811. Registers kept by the Board of Stamps of the moneys received in payment of the duty on apprentices' indentures extracted from TNA series IR 1) (West Yorkshire, England, Select Apprenticeship Records, 1627-1894. This collection contains records of people being bound as apprentices to masters in West Yorkshire, England, for the years 1627-1894. You’ll find both indentures and registers of indentures amongst the records) (Staffordshire Apprentices, 1600-1900) (Pickard's Pink Pages for Warwickshire: Warwickshire and Coventry apprentices and masters index)
(Bedfordshire Apprentices transcribed by Rosalind Dunning) (Worcestershire Archive Online Indexes: Apprentices Indentures)
(Hull History Centre: Persons bound apprentice to freemen, 1651-1886) (Board of Stamps Apprenticeship Books: County Collectors’ Returns, 1798-1800)

Other indexes compiled at a local level.

CD Roms

Archive CD Books (Board of Stamps - Apprenticeship Books, 1710-1754)
Bristol & Avon Family History Society (Bristol Apprenticeship Books – Index and Transcripts, 1724-2009)