Trace your shopkeeper ancestors

This guide was last updated in 2010

There can be something deeply satisfying about discovering ancestors who kept or worked in a shop: an appealing image is conjured of good, honest tradesmen working hard for a living, says Jenny Thomas.

Most of us will have seen photographs of shopkeepers and assistants behind their counters or posing outside their shops with their goods displayed in the window, and these images are not without their charm.

But the experiences of such shopkeeping and working ancestors would have varied enormously according to the era in which they worked, their sex, the type and location of the shop, whether they were employers or employees and how much they were paid.

At first glance it may seem an uphill task to uncover any detailed information about these ancestors and their employment, especially in an era too recent for census returns to be available. But you may be surprised at the wealth of information that can be found if you are prepared to spend the time looking for it.

Here are some suggestions as to how you might proceed...

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