Wales Directories

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Directories are alphabetical lists of names and addresses. They list information for the year they are published. In Wales, directories first appeared in the late eighteenth century and continue to the present day. They show the name of a person, usually the head of the household, with his or her address and occupation. They seldom show the entire population. Directories can also include information such as:

  • City maps.
  • Indexes to streets.
  • Addresses of churches or cemeteries.

A person’s inclusion or omission in directories for successive years may show when he came into the city, left the city, or died. Also, knowing an individual’s address can help you search a census of a large city.

There are various types of directories:

  • Postal or commercial directories provide alphabetical lists of people living in an area, usually including those engaged in some kind of trade or profession.
  • Trade directories contain alphabetical lists of trades and professions and the people engaged in the trade or profession.
  • Street directories have alphabetical lists of the principal streets and the people living there.
  • Court directories list the city officers, government officials, and "private" residents.
  • Law directories list judges, staff of various courts, lawyers, police, notaries, and registration officers.
  • Church directories give information and addresses for dioceses and parishes (see Wales Church Directories).
  • Telephone directories give names, addresses, and telephone numbers of individuals, societies, libraries, newspapers, and other businesses. This information can help you identify modern descendants of a family. Current telephone directories are published on microfiche by British Telecom and are also available on compact disc and the Internet (see Wales Archives and Libraries).

Directories usually cover a large section of Wales (such as North Wales) and are divided into counties and towns.

Several bibliographies of directories have been compiled. A few of these are:

  • Current British Directories. Rev. ed. Beckenham, Kent, England: CBD Research Ltd., 1985. (Family History Library British book 942 E43c.)
  • Newington-Irving, N. J. N., ed. Directories and Poll Books in the Possession of the Society of Genealogists. 6th ed. London, England: The Society of Genealogists, 1995. (Family History Library British 942.1/L1 D23so 1995.)
  • Norton, Jane E. Guide to the National and Provincial Directories of England and Wales, excluding London, Published before 1856. London, England: Offices of the Royal Historical Society, 1950. (Family History Library British  942 C4rg no. 5.)
  • Shaw, Gareth and Allison Tipper. British Directories and Guide to Directories Published in England and Wales (1850–1950) and Scotland (1773–1950). Leicester, England: Leicester University Press, 1989. (Family History Library book 942 E43s.)

How Directories were Compiled[edit | edit source]

The names in many early directories were obtained by personal visits or through local agents paid for the task. Those involved were often local printers and booksellers, registry office keepers, tax and post office officials, policemen, or accountants and agents for insurance companies. Land and house agents and auctioneers would be aware of local changes of address and business.

The use of circulars and advertisements was found ineffective and although rate books might appear to be a good source they omit permanent lodgers and those who do not pay the poor rate. Fees for insertion, other than for advertisements, seem rarely to have been charged.

Many people moved at the quarter-days in June and December and, as there was a delay of two or three months between the collection of names and the publication of a directory, most were planned to come out in March or September. Accordingly Bailey made his surveys after Christmas. The 1795 directory of Newcastle-upon-Tyne took only two months to prepare and the names for Kelly's 1840 London directory were collected in September for printing in late November. Longer delays, however, could occur.

Severe weather conditions, as at Huddersfield in 1867, might adversely affect the collection of names and there would always be those who avoided a listing, fearful that names were being taken for the militia, or simply because they wanted to be ex-directory. There would be problems too, of course, with local pronunciations when names were given by servants and with defining those with multiple occupations.

Many early directory compilers were dishonest, and there are disconcerting differences between any two directories for the same place and date. Shameless copying was always a problem. As late as 1863 Casey's Directory of Hertfordshire was copied wholesale from Kelly's 1862 directory of that county. A directory that is regularly printed in its own locality is likely to be more reliable than any other.

The proportion of households that appear in directories has attracted adverse comment. Gareth Shaw compared directories with the census and found that 98 per cent of the households in the main streets of Exeter appear in the 1871 directory of Exeter, and 75 per cent of those in the smaller streets. White's directory of Exeter in 1890 includes some 65 per cent of the households. Even Baines's 1823 Lancashire directory has 70 per cent of the households in very large towns, but only six per cent of those in small villages.

The number of surviving directories for many places is surprising and as many as possible should be sought out in local and national libraries. The town of Dudley, perhaps the most unhealthy place in the country, with one mile of drains to 36 miles of streets, has 38 directories between 1770 and 1852, an average of one every three years.

Online Access[edit | edit source]

Courtesy of Historical Directories, a University of Leicestershire Project:

  • 1796, 1813, 1816, 1828-1829, 1835, 1844, 1849, 1850, 1852-1853, 1854, 1855, 1856, 1859, 1863, 1865, 1866, 1868, 1869, 1871, 1873-1874, 1875, 1876, 1878, 1880-1881, 1881-1882, 1885, 1887, 1891, 1895, 1899, 1900, 1901, 1903, 1907, 1908-1909, 1911, 1912, 1914, 1918

Through the GenUKI website, it is possible to locate a volunteer who will search some directories for you free of charge. You can visit this site at:

From the above site

  • Click [County of your choice]
  • ClickGenealogy
  • ClickLook-up Exchange

The Family History Library has a small collection of Welsh directories.[1] Directories and bibliographies of directories are listed in the Place Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under:





Current Directories[edit | edit source]

Collective directories, covering churches, libraries, museums, newspapers, societies, and a wide variety of other organisations and activities, are also published. See Current British Directories (Beckenham, Kent, 14th ed. 2003) [FHL has 10th ed. (1985) book 942 E43c]. Many are listed in the section 'Useful Publications' in the invaluable British Archives: a guide to archive resources in the United Kingdom, by Janet Foster and Julia Sheppard (4th ed. 2002) [FHL has 3rd ed. (1995) book 942 J54]. A portal for current directories worldwide is found at

See also[edit | edit source]

External Links[edit | edit source]

Sources[edit | edit source]

  1. Wales Research Outline. Salt Lake City: Intellectual Reserve, 2000), 30-31. (All of the information from the original research article has been imported into this Wiki site and is being updated as time permits).