In tracing English ancestors, important information about individuals and their families may be contained within apprenticeship indentures. I learned quite a lot about them in another course presented by Stuart Raymond of Pharos Teaching & Tutoring Limited titled, appropriately, Apprenticeship Records.
Such documents often contain a wealth of data including, among other things: the names of the Apprentice and his or her parents; the name of the Master, his occupation and his address of residence or business; the trade, of course, in which the Apprentice was being trained; the term of the apprenticeship; wages to be paid; names of other parties to the agreement such as parish representatives, local poor law overseers or charity representatives, witnesses to the signatories of the agreement; and the any of term considerations by the Master, such as a job offer or support to join a guild. Many children were put into apprenticeships by parish officials such as Poor Overseers in an attempt for their own advancement and to get them off poor relief.
Copies of actual apprenticeship indentures may be found in a wide variety of places:
· Local record offices
· The National Archives (TNA)
· Family papers
· Records of Poor Overseers
· Guild and union records
· Charity records
· Family history and other historical association publications
· Library, museum and university files
· Court records
· City or town archives
· General searches of the internet
One can search the records of the TNA or related sites directly. A general search for “apprenticeship” from the Home page brings up 185 results as a starting point to look for further files. Starting at the main Discovery page of TNA, a search for the term presently brings up 78,909 results which can be further broken down by date, parish, family names, etc. Of these, 2,442 are TNA files from records of 63 different government department collections, of which 181 can be downloaded directly. A whopping 76,467 are from other archives tied into the TNA website. These include local and county records offices, archives across Britain, societies, museums, trade organizations and universities. Copies of any of these can be ordered.
Many other websites and directories, such as Access to Archives (A2A), Archon and the National Register of Archives (NRA), have now been incorporated into the Discovery section of TNA. Archives Hub remains as another source of historical documents and information worth checking out.
As part of the Apprenticeship Records course, there was one exercise in which we were to source an apprenticeship indenture and produce an abstract of it, describing all of the information about the particular Apprentice.to find a suitable indenture, we first did a search of Google Images and searched for “apprenticeship indentures”. Hundreds of examples come up from which to select. You might try such a search for your own ancestors as a starting point.
Anyway, for this assignment I found an interesting document about an apprenticeship to a wig maker. I have no wig makers in my family so I was curious about this particular occupation and the people involved in it. From the Google Images search I later tracked down the indenture that had originally been posted on a website about the music hall and theatre history in London, dedicated to Arthur Lloyd (1839-1904), actor, comedian, singer, songwriter and music hall performer. So I had lots more information about how individuals in this particular occupation were employed.
An Indenture for the apprenticeship of Louisa Taylor to William Clarkson, Wig Maker, in 1886 - Courtesy David Sweetman, Great Grandson of Louisa Taylor, who, according to the 1911 census at the age of 38, was still working as a Wig Maker; downloaded January 19, 2011 from http://www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/Backstage/ClarksonWigs.htm
The indenture has a great deal of information about Louisa Taylor: her residence address; her father’s name, the wages she was to be paid; and the obligations of both her and the Master, William Berry Clarkson. The requirements of the Apprentice shown appear to be standard terms, as part of printed form, with blanks filled in by hand reflecting the gender of both Apprentice and Master. A hand-written note was inserted into the printed form concerning wages to be paid and amounts are hand-written at bottom of document. This suggests that Clarkson wanted an assistant as much as an apprentice.
On a page of this site dedicated to William Clarkson there are photos of the former location of Clarkson’s Wigs on Wardour Street (previously Wellington Street), London, including one of a plaque commemorating “Willy Clarkson 1861-1934”. William Clarkson was quite a famous individual apparently. A search for any surviving papers of Clarkson’s estate might reveal more details on the occupation of wig maker as well as on individuals taken on as apprentices.
Part of the assignment was to source other information about the people, in particular the Apprentice. Using the notes on the indenture and the descriptive information on the Arthur Lloyd website, I was able to find census data on Ancestry and FindMyPast for Louisa and her family from 1881 through 1911. The censuses give data from which birth information might be found and certificates ordered for Louisa, as well as marriage certificates for her parents, Charles Taylor and Rosina Louisa Cullen (her maiden name was determined from the 1891 census when Charles’ mother-in-law was living with the couple). A further search of FreeBMD showed they were married in the December quarter of 1863 and registered in Lambeth RD. It appears, at first look, that the births of their children were registered in Strand RD but a search of Lambeth RD records might also be done.
An additional search of FreeBMD for Louisa came up with a marriage of Louisa Taylor to Ernest Sweetman in 1894. We saw on the Arthur Lloyd website that the indenture image was contributed by Louisa’s grandson, David Sweetman. The 1911 census showed Ernest, Louisa and three children. It also listed her as a wig maker confirming this was the right family. Interestingly, her daughter was also described as a wig maker.
1911 England Census – showing the family of Ernest James and Louis Sweetman; copyright The National Archives (image downloaded December 23, 2014 from Ancestry)
I did not review all of the local parish registers for additional family members but those around the addresses shown on the various censuses would be worth looking at. Copies of birth, marriage and death certificates could also be ordered from the General Record Office.
It was an interesting course. I recommend it. The assignments gave me an appreciation of the information that is contained on such documents as apprenticeship indentures proving one should not leave any stone unturned in the search for our ancestors.
Wayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program in England, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy and is a past Editor of Chinook, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Family Histories Society. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated.
Merry Christmas to all the readers of this blog. Time to put away the genealogy now and concentrate on our families that will join us in celebrating the holiday season.