Find Ancestors – Using Business Records to Find Ancestors

Find ancestors using business records you might ask? Well, think about it, we spend about one third of our adult lives at work. Some of us sit in charge of them at their tops, while most of us toil at them from the bottom. But all of us have a personnel file, union records, insurance forms, all containing our vital information. Our ancestors were the same, so it’s no wonder that old business records can be valuable to an ancestors search. Legal documents, shareholder lists, even trade directories can also help us find ancestors; it’s just a matter of knowing where to look. In this article we’ll discuss some of the business records that can help us to find ancestors.

Find Ancestors in Company Archives

It’s probably best to begin your ancestors search by trying to locate any surviving archives of the company your relative may have owned or worked for. Keep in mind though, that these may be hard to locate, as many will not have survived. Those that do however can provide vital clues that may help us to find ancestors. You’ll have the most success searching ancestors in business archives from the last 70 or 80 years. Before then record keeping wasn’t so efficient and any information uncovered may be slight. After that a more concerted effort was made to keep accurate company records, and most National Archives have a section devoted strictly to businesses and their particular archived records.

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If you don’t find the ancestry records you’re searching for in the archives, the next step is to look for businesses that were associated or did business with your relative’s firm. Records regarding the bankers, brokers, insurers, lawyers, accountants, suppliers, even customers can all help you to find ancestors in the business archives. It’s hard to believe that many banking and insurance records dating from the eighteenth century have survived, but they have in quite large numbers, and are always a good place to begin when you’re attempting to find ancestors.

Find Ancestors in the Registrar of Companies

If you’re searching ancestors of British or Irish origin, the Registrar of Companies is full of information that may help you to find ancestors. This body was established in 1840 with offices in London and Dublin initially, before expanding into Edinburgh. The Registrar contains a file on every company, and thousands of these files are still in existence today. Some of the records that may help you to find ancestors here are:

  • Bankruptcy Records
  • Patents and Trademarks
  • Legal Case Records
  • Annual returns

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Other Sources that May Help to Find Ancestors

Printed materials such as newspapers, maps, trade catalogues and prospectuses may also be used to find ancestors. These types of records are usually easy to find and understand as well. Trade directories are especially useful to an ancestors search, and there are accurate transcriptions dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. Some directories are organized geographically; by town or county, while others are specific industry based. Newspapers are an often overlooked source of ancestral information, and they can help you to find ancestors through:

  • Advertisements
  • Notices of Establishment or Closure
  • Performance Results
  • Event Reports (Disasters or Strikes)
  • Newspaper Obituaries for Leading Executives

Though previously hard to find online, newspaper indexes are becoming increasingly available to the online researcher, and can greatly enhance your quest to find ancestors. Printed histories of specific businesses and the biographies of the men and women who founded and ran them should also be taken into account in your ancestors search. Many business publications that can help you to find ancestors end up in libraries and record offices. They often include trade catalogues, shareholder newsletters, technical journals and annual reports.

Though you may have to do some clever detective work, these potential ancestry records can be a priceless source of genealogical information. Besides providing another means to find ancestors, these ancient business records may also yield valuable insights into how your ancestors made a living, and even reveal some surprising insights into family affairs!

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