Skip to main content

Historical Directories Help

This page contains answers to commonly-asked questions about Historical Directories. If your query is not covered below, please contact us at

Why have you changed the way in which Historical Directories can be accessed?

The Historical Directories project was completed over a decade ago, and the software that the original site ran on has become obsolete. The digitised directories have been moved onto the same system as other University of Leicester digital collections. This offered the only sustainable solution for continuing to provide free access.

How do I search for a county?

To find all directories covering a particular county click on Browse by Location and select the area of the map or county name that you are interested in. Note that we are currently working to improve the indexing of Welsh counties.

How do I search for a directory covering a town I am interested in?

As on the previous version of the website, the directories are not categorised by town. You are therefore advised to search for the county in which your town is located.

After I have found directories for the county I am researching, how do I narrow the search by date.

On the search results page, under ‘Narrow your search by’, click ‘Period covered’ and then select the decade you are interested in.

My search has found 50+ hits in a directory. How do I find them?

Pages containing your search term are flagged in the navigation pane on the right of the screen. Scroll down the contents of the pane to find your matches.

How do I search for a person’s name, e.g. “John Smith”?

When searching for a combination of words the default setting is to search for an exact phrase. Therefore, a search for “John Smith” will find occurrences where “John” appears immediately after “Smith”. The normal format of the trade directories is for names to be listed by surname followed by a forename or initial (“Smith, John” or “Smith, J”). Some directories give an abbreviated form of a forename (e.g. Jn for John or Wm for William). It is common for women to be listed with “Miss” or “Mrs” between surname and forename (e.g. Smith, Mrs Joan). A number of searches may therefore be required to find all references to an individual. For family historians, accessing trade directories available via commercial genealogy providers may be more suited to research needs than using the Historical Directories website.

Does the new website permit proximity (near) searches?

No. Unfortunately this option is not currently available.

Do you have any plans to add to the collection?

We have no current plans to add new content to the Historical Directories collection.

I would like to publish all or part of a trade directory on my own website. How do I obtain permission to do this?

The Historical Directories collection is made available under the Creative Commons license CC-BY-NC (Attribution-NonCommercial). This means that you are free to copy and distribute the material in any medium or format, and can remix, transform or build upon any of the content. These freedoms are permitted provided appropriate credit is given to the University of Leicester as the owner of the data, and that the material is not used for commercial purposes. See or contact for further information.

Select the collections to add or remove from your search