In this guide we will explain how you can look for records of an apprentice or master in England and Wales between 1710 and 1811. This is the time period when stamp duty was payable on indentures of apprenticeship. THe registers of the duty paid were kept by the Commissioners of Stamps.

It’s important to note that not all trades will have records. Common ones such as weaving might have gotten informal indentures, which were common with fathers often teaching sons and nephews. Also, the Statute of Apprentices only applied to trades which existed when it was passed in 1563, which might further exclude some.

In this guide you wil find links to Online records, Records available at the National Archives, and Other records available at libraries.

Online Records for Apprentices and Masters

There are four main sources for Apprentices’ and Masters’ registers: The Apprenticeship books, which cover the period 1710 to 1811 and the Indexes to apprentices registered in the Merchant Navy, covering 1824 to 1910. Additionally, there are the Articles of clerkship, covering 1756 to 1874.

An example of a page in the Index of Masters
An example of a page in the Index of Masters - in vols. 30-31. COurtesy of The National Archives, Kew.

Apprenticeship Books (1710–1811)

During the period 1710 to 1811, masters paid stamp duty for taking on apprentices. Their details were recorded in apprenticeship books, which were divided into Town Registers (London) and Country Registers (elsewhere), depending on where the stamp duty was paid. The payment could be made at the start of the apprenticeship or any time up to one year after the expiry of the indenture.

You can search the apprenticeship books from 1710 to 1811 on Ancestry.co.uk (Paid) by name of master or apprentice, or browse the apprenticeship books on digital microfilm at the National Archives.

There are original indexes of masters to some of these registers, available to view online, in IR 1/74–79

You can also browse the indexes of apprentices from 1710 to 1774 on findmypast.co.uk (Paid).

Indexes to Apprentices Registered in the Merchant Navy (1824–1910)

This collection of records contains lists of young men who were indentured to merchant navy ships between the years 1824 and 1910. The records include details such as name, age and date at registration or indenture, vessel, port of registry, and birth year and place. Masters of British merchant ships of 80 tons and over were required to carry a given number of indentured apprentices. These had to be duly enrolled with the local Customs Officer. Unfortunately, only a sample of the original indentures survive.

You can search these records by name the indexes of apprentices (BT 150/1–53) on Ancestry (Paid). 

Articles of Clerkship (1756–1874)

These records are associated with articles of clerkship for young men apprenticed to attorneys for the years 1756–1874. These were contracts between an apprentice clerk, who wanted to become an attorney or solicitor, and an attorney who agreed to train the clerk. The contracts were often entered into by fathers (or other sponsors) on their sons’ behalf. The terms typically lasted 5 to 7 years. 

These records usually list the clerk’s name, parish, and town, the clerk’s father’s name, the name of the attorney to whom the clerk was bound, the name of person swearing to the affidavit, the date of the affidavit and the term of clerkship.

You can search articles of clerkship (KB 105–107) by name on Ancestry (Paid). 

Records Available at The National Archives

Apprenticeship Records of the Merchant Navy (1824–1953)

The earlier volumes give the apprentice’s name, their age, the date and terms of his indenture, the name of his master, and the port where he signed on and the name of the ship (available in later volumes only).

You can browse BT 150 for indexes of apprentices registered in the merchant service between 1824 to 1953 by date and by port BT 151 and BT 152 for samples of the original indentures, including some for fishing vessels. Unfortunately, only a two-month sample for every five years.

Apprenticeship Records in the Admiralty (19th cent. onwards)

You can browse records such as Headings ‘Boys’ and ‘Apprentices in Dockyards’ in ADM 12, ADM 1 and ADM 106, ADM 73/421 and ADM 73/448 and CSC 10.

Board of Trade Papers (1846–1895)

You can find correspondence from various departments of the Board, including references to apprenticeships in the indexes to papers in BT 19.

Poor Law Union Indexes and Papers (1836–1920)

These records relate to children of paupers and orphans who were apprenticed out by the guardians and overseers of the poor. The documents frequently relate to administrative and policy issues.

The index of subjects may help you find mentions of apprenticeships and additional related papers of individual Poor Law unions in MH 12 and MH 15.

Other Records

London Metropolitan Archives

These records relate to children of paupers and orphans who were apprenticed out by the guardians and overseers of the poor. The documents frequently relate to administrative and policy issues.

The index of subjects may help you find mentions of apprenticeships and additional related papers of individual Poor Law unions in MH 12 and MH 15.

London Metropolitan Archives (Guildhall Library)

Guildhall Library holds some sources giving information on apprenticeships. 

They have a microfiche index to certain apprenticeships in England, Wales and Scotland covering the period 1710 to 1774. These records are based on The apprentices of Great Britain, originally compiled for the Society of Genealogists from Inland Revenue records (mentioned above). 

They also provide 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). The jurisdiction of the companies usually ran only to the City of London and its vicinity. Indexes to the apprenticeship registers of over 40 City of London livery companies are available on the open shelves in Guildhall Library. 

The library also has published lists of, and indexes to, apprentices in Oxford, 1697-1800, and Coventry, 1781-1806.

Genealogy Books