Posts Tagged ‘apprenticeships’

Professions and Trades: Apprenticeships

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Although apprenticeships are still very much in existence today, their structure and administration bears little resemblance to what our ancestors would have experienced. 

Medieval baker

With roots stretching back to the middle ages, the administration of apprenticeships fell under the strict control of the powerful Guilds. As legal entities themselves, holding charters or letters patent from the highest local authority, guild activities were strictly governed and recorded with due diligence, none more so than apprenticeships. Apprentices were bonded, usually for a period of seven years, to a master crafts or tradesman.  This was in essence a binding contract between the two parties, and would have been duly documented in the respective Guild’s record books.  Information recorded in these books would have included:

  •  The name, address and specific trade of the master, as well as the respective Guild that the master would have been obliged to be a member of.
  • The name of the apprentice, but more importantly, the dates of the indenture

As you can see, records such as these are a treasure trove of information for genealogists. The challenge of course lay in finding them.  Although they have evolved over time, many of these medieval guilds still exist, such as the Livery Companies of the City of London. Information on how to access British apprenticeship records can be obtained through the National Archives website.  If you are researching Canadian apprenticeship records, here are some resources you can check out:

 Our own library collection at the North York Central Library also contains a few resources on this subject, including:

  •  Labouring Children: British Immigrant Apprentices to Canada, 1869-1924
    • By Joy Parr
    • Call # 331.31 0971 Parr 1994
  •  Nineteenth Century Apprentices in New York City
    • By Kenneth Scott
    • Call # 929.3 747 1 Scott 198
  • Child Apprentices in America from Christ Church Hospital, London, 1617-1778.
    • Peter Wilson Coldham
    • 929.3 73 Coldh 199
  • Freemen and Apprentices of York.
    • By John Malden
    • 929.3 41 English 1986
  • A Calendar of Southampton apprenticeship records, 1609-1740
    • By Arthur Willis and A.L Merson
    • Call # 929.3 422 76 Willi 1968

 Happy hunting!