Research Questions

We have put together a list of replies to often asked queries about the Business Archives Council. The list has been separated into categories. If you should find that your question has not been answered here, please contact us.

  • Do you have any records relating to a specific company?

    No. The BAC is not a physical repository and it holds no archive records at all. It is a registered charity established in 1934 for the promotion and preservation of business history - not a repository for business records. You can find out about where business records are located by visiting The National Archives' portal to archives: Discovery.

  • I am just starting out researching a company's history. I have never done any of this type of research before. Could you make any suggestions as to where I should start?

    There are several sources worth consulting during the initial stages of your research which could provide you with some leads:

    • A Guide to Tracing the History of a Business by Dr John Orbell. This lists sources and ideas which you may well find helpful. You will find a copy in a good reference library. A new edition was published in 2009.
    • For an online bibliography for locating publications on the history of specific businesses and industries operating in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland subscribe to the Business History Explorer developed by Dr John Orbell.
    • Kellys Trade Directories. These are similar to telephone directories, grouping together businesses according to trade for yearly periods. If you have a name of a business in a particular area or an idea where a business was located over a given time period, for example Jones’ Blacksmith's in London in 1899-1913, you can use these directories to confirm its existence at that location at that time, to follow the physical relocation of that business and trace how long it was at various premises. Researchers should be advised that these businesses may not appear in directories consistently year after year.
    • Companies House - incorporates and dissolves limited companies, registers the information companies are legally required to supply, and makes that information available to the public.
    • For more information about the key records of a business please take a look at the Managing Business Archives website.
  • I am trying to trace information about my grandfather, do you have any information about the company he owned?

    Contact The National Archives. You should consider whether you are more concerned to establish details about your grandfather or whether you wish to find out about his business. If the enquiry is of a personal/family history nature, for example searching for the details of your grandfather who worked for X mining company in Yorkshire or who owned his own toy making factory in Shropshire, then it is often better to establish as much about your family member as you can first through other means rather than taking the business as your starting point.

    Knowledge of a relation’s connection with a business may help to locate them at a certain place at a certain time but will not necessarily provide more family background. Records for small independent companies owned by a family member rarely survive. If they are not passed down through the family they are most likely to have been destroyed rather than given to a public repository. Staff records which may document the employment of a family member within another business are not always deemed the most important historical items to keep and so they too have not always survived even where other records have.

    If you are more interested in the business itself then treat it as a normal business enquiry and approach all the usual places as listed above.