Apprenticeship in England was essentially a private transaction between the apprentice and his or her parents or guardians on the one hand and the master, mistress or employer on the other. Records may therefore be difficult to trace unless they have survived in the hands of the families or firms concerned, although sometimes details may be found in municipal or Poor Law records, usually held in county or other local record offices.
Guildhall Library holds the following sources giving information on apprenticeships:
- Microfiche index to certain apprenticeships in England, Wales and Scotland, 1710-1774, published by Harvester Microform, and based on The apprentices of Great Britain, originally compiled for the Society of Genealogists from Inland Revenue records now at The National Archives and also available on Ancestry
- Records of most of the City of London livery companies. These are listed in City livery companies and related organisations: a guide to their archives in Guildhall Library (3rd ed., 1989). It should be noted, however, that the jurisdiction of the companies usually ran only to the City of London and its vicinity, and that by the 19th century (earlier in some cases) the companies had largely ceased to regulate the trades whose names they bore. Cliff Webb has produced indexes to the apprenticeship registers of over 40 City of London livery companies, copies of which are available on the open shelves in Guildhall Library. Registers are usually indexed only up to c.1800.
- Published lists of, and indexes to, apprentices in some cities and towns outside London, e.g. Oxford, 1697-1800, and Coventry, 1781-1806.
Items at 1 and 3 above are not unique to Guildhall Library and may therefore be found in libraries elsewhere. Information on some City of London apprenticeships may also be found in the records of the Freedom of the City, 1681-1940, and of enrolments of apprentices, 1786-1940, held by London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) and now on Ancestry.
Details of apprenticeships can also be found in the pre-1834 Poor Law records of City of London parishes now held at LMA. It should be noted that the records are extensive and largely unindexed, so that some knowledge of details, such as a parish or a date, is essential for their use. However, poor law material for some City parishes has been transcribed and indexed by Cliff Webb; these typescripts are held at Guildhall Library.