Picking up the Tailor’s Thread through Trade Directories

George, a tailor aged 27 in 1851, the brother of Edward John/James Adams, a jeweller, discussed in ‘Common Surname Trouble – Adams in Birmingham’, was my hope to identify the next generation back.  A convincing case can be made from 1861-1891 census enumerations that a tailor named George Adams, born ca. 1824, married Elizabeth after 1851 and raised a family.  The civil registration of the marriage should give me the name of George’s father.

Marriage Certificate - George Adams & Elizabeth Clifton

Marriage Certificate – George Adams & Elizabeth Clifton


Bride: Elizabeth Clifton
Groom: George Adams
Date: 13 May 1852
Location: Edgbaston, Warwickshire

Err, no fathers named!

Elizabeth’s age ‘minor’ indicates that she was under 21, which fits the Elizabeth in the census.  Her age consistently indicates a birth date of ca. 1833, so she was 19 or 20 at the time of the marriage.

George’s occupation as a tailor fits, but the age ‘full’ does not confirm he is the right George.

Were there other tailors named George Adams in Birmingham?

The nineteenth century method of googling a tradesman was to consult a trade directory, which were usually published annually.  Some entries were free, but many were paid for, so trade directories did not include every business.   The ‘UK, Midlands and Various UK Trade Directories, 1770-1941’ collection on Ancestry looks promising.  However, Ancestry does not give a list of the directory titles included, so I can’t assess the relevant coverage of the collection.  The data is derived from a third party company that scans old books, produces indexes using optical character recognition (OCR), offering the result on CDs and online subscriptions, Midlands Historical Data.  OCR is not completely accurate and renders some text as gobbled gook, which has been transferred into the Ancestry database.  Consequently, some entries will not be found.  I would like to search on the street address to check for entries missed and confirm someone else occupied premises before and after my target, but Ancestry’s search does not accommodate this search.

A search of the Ancestry collection using search terms George Adams and tailor yielded these results:

Year Street Address directory title
1855 94 Smith Street White’s Directory of Birmingham
1855 93 Branston Street
1858 (successor to R. Blackburn, late of 93 Branston Street) tailor, draper and French trouser maker, 14 Northampton Street Dix’s General and Commercial Directory of Birmingham
1862 14 Northampton Street Slater’s Royal National Commercial – Warwickshire
1866 Morris’s Commercial Directory of Warwickshire with Birmingham
1872 Kelly’s Directory of Birmingham
1873 tailor and draper; 24 Northampton Street; h Crompton villa, Crompton rd, Handsworth White’s Directory of Birmingham
1876 24 Northampton Street Kelly’s Directory of Birmingham
1892 161 Hockley hill
1912 16 Mole street, Sparkbrook
1921 1 South range, Mole St. Sparkbrook

White’s 1855 directory lists 2 tailors named George Adams, but the other directories only list one.  The 1858 listing identifies the Branston Street and 14 Northampton Street tailors as the same person.   Are the later listings at 24 Northampton Street and Hockley Hill also the same person?  Is this the George who married Elizabeth Clifton?  Census addresses give further insights:

Year Address Comment
1851 9 Branston Street George at brother’s house
1861 12 Northampton Street George, Elizabeth & 4 children
1871 Stanford Road, Handsworth George, Elizabeth & 4 children
1881 66 Crompton Road, Handsworth George, Elizabeth &  2 children
1891 106 Crompton Road, Handsworth George, Elizabeth & 3 adult children, 3 grandchildren
1901 161 Hockley Hill widowed Elizabeth & 2 adult children

The 1873 directory listing gives a home address in Crompton Road, which ties in with the 1881 census address.  The National Probate Calendar confirms George’s death:

Adams George of 161 Hockley-hill Birmingham tailor died 23 January 1899 Probate Birmingham 27 February to Elizabeth Adams widow Effects £69 13s 2d

On the 1901 census Elizabeth was a tailor and her son, Ernest Clifton Adams, was a tailor’s assistant.  So, the 1903 directory listing indicates the business was still in operation, not that George had been resurrected!  Elizabeth probably died in 1904 (FreeBMD death index, 1904 Jan-Mar quarter, Birmingham, Vol 6d, page 84), which is consistent with no further entries in the Handsworth area.  The tailor in Sparkbrook, on the other side of Birmingham, is clearly a different person.

Taken together, the census and trade directory information support one another and give a career history for George.  Even though the evidence is indirect and I have not searched the records as thoroughly as I would have liked, I am reasonably convinced this George is the brother of Edward John/James Adams.

A possible candidate for George, aged 18, on the 1841 census, resided in Steelhouse Lane with probable Adams relatives, Sarah (aged 60), Alexander (20), Phoebe (16), Catherine (11), William (7), Sophia (4) and Fanny Plant (11).  Unfortunately the 1841 census does not give relationships and only approximate ages.  Sarah could be the mother of Alexander, George and Phoebe, but not the younger household members.   So Edward John/James Adams’, father was possibly James Adams and George Adams’ mother might have been Sarah.  Maybe I should look for baptisms for children of James Adams and Sarah. Big Maybe.

© Sue Adams 2013

2 Comments on “Picking up the Tailor’s Thread through Trade Directories”

  1. […] UK Trade Directories, 1770-1941’ collection and bearing in mind the caveats discussed in ‘Picking up the Tailor’s Thread through Trade Directories’,  careers and residences of the two men are summarised as […]


  2. […] Picking up the Tailor’s Thread through Trade Directories […]


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