Crafts and Trades
Crafts and Trades
Craft guilds or incorporations were formed in the Middle Ages and were an important part of burgh life then and in later centuries. Each craft jealously guarded its own monopolies and standards of workmanship, acquired property to raise funds, provided for its own poor, shared the patronage of an altar to its patron saint in pre-Reformation times and a seat in the parish church after the Reformation. Where records survive they are likely to include lists of members, accounts and minutes dealing with regulations, donations to poor members, apprenticeships and elections of officeholders and actions against outsiders trying to trade in the burgh. The Scottish Association of Family History Societies has published a useful selective bibliography of 'Scottish Trades and Professions', compiled by D R Torrance (1991).
Craft and Trades Records in the National Records of Scotland
In addition to the sources identified below, when searching for individual craftsmen you should also check the National Records of Scotland (NRS) electronic catalogue and the index to pre-1925 testaments on the ScotlandsPeople website.
|Trade or craft||Place||Dates||NRS reference|
|Cordiners||Edinburgh||1477/8 - 20th century||GD348|
|Dyers or Litsters||Aberdeen||c1654-1886||E870/4|
|Fisherman: Society of Free Fisherman of Newhaven||Newhaven||1572-1990||GD265|
|Gardeners: Ancient Fraternity of Free Gardeners of East Lothian||East Lothian||1676-1953||GD420|
|Goldsmiths||Edinburgh and Glasgow||1525-1964||GD1/482|
|Hammermen||Musselburgh||1761-1821||B52/8/4-6 and B52/14/67|
|Incorporations of crafts||Dunfermline||1593-1656||B20/20/4|
|Incorporations of crafts||Haddington||1758-9||GD98/15/48|
|Incorporations of crafts||Linlithgow guildry||1652-1959||GD1/634|
|Incorporations of crafts||Selkirk||1717-1824||B68/8/1|
|Skinners||Transcript of sederunt book at Haddington||1745-71||GD302/100|
|Wrights||Musselburgh||1574 - c.1883||B52/8/1-3|
|Wrights and Masons||Haddington||1533-1915||B30/18/4-8 and B30/22|
|Wrights and Masons||Leith||1821-35||GD1/943|
|Woolcombers:Woolcombers Society Minute Book||1755-9||CS96/1943|
For details of records of masons and freemasons see David Stevenson, 'The First Freemasons' (1988), Appendix 2.
We also hold microfilm of the following:
- Brechin tailors minutebook, 1660-1775 (original in Angus Archives) (NRS reference RH4/140)
- Edinburgh Hammermen charters, 1501-1686 (original in Edinburgh City Archives) (NRS reference RH4/11)
- Inverness Hammermen minutebook, 1690 - 1861 (original now lost) (NRS reference RH4/94).
The Scottish Record Society has published indexed lists of admissions of burgesses of Edinburgh, Canongate, Glasgow and Dumbarton (for details see 'Scottish Texts and Calendars' published by the Scottish History Society). For other burghs you will need to search the burgess rolls or court books of the appropriate burgh, many of which are held in local archives. Burgh court books also contain a great deal of information relating to the regulation of crafts. For further information on burgh records you should consult our publication 'Tracing Scottish Local History' (HMSO, 1994).
Some indentures are registered in the Register of Deeds, others are scattered among collections of private papers. There is also a series of Edinburgh indentures at RH9/17/272-326 covering the period 1613-1783. Other Edinburgh apprenticeship records can be found in the papers of George Heriot's Trust, relating to the charity school set up for orphans and poor children of burgesses and freemen (NRS reference GD421/10). The Scottish Record Society has published lists of Edinburgh apprentices for the period 1583 - 1755. From 1710 stamp duty was charged on indentures. Records of Scottish apprentices survive in the Stamp Board's Apprenticeship Books, 1710-1811 kept by The National Archives (TNA) in London (TNA reference IR1).
Friendly societies and trade unions
Friendly societies were formed in the 18th and 19th centuries for the mutual benefit of the members. Rules and regulations of trade associations, friendly societies, unions, co-operative and building societies are to be found in the Friendly Society records (FS). These range from the Brotherly Society of Coopers of Leith to the Tranent Benevolent Society of Colliers, and the Inverness Cabmen's Union. A very few also give a list of members. The records are listed in Ian MacDougall's, 'A Catalogue of some Labour Records in Scotland' (Scottish Labour History Society, 1978). Friendly Society records for Free Church ministers can be found in NRS reference CH3/515-517.
Records relating to early trade union activity can be found in criminal court records - for example, JC26/ 250 relates to the trial of James Granger charged with entering into a combination to raise the wages of weavers, 1788; records seized from the Scottish Weavers Association of 1808-13 are in the papers of the Lord Advocate's Department in preparation for the trial of a number of its members in 1813 (NRS reference AD14/13/8). For more information on criminal cases, go to our guide to records of crime and criminals.
Sources held elsewhere
You should check with the National Library of Scotland, local archives, libraries and museums for their holdings of craft records. For example, the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh holds the records of the Society of Barbers from 1716. Check the surveys of the National Register of Archives for Scotland (NRAS).