What street directories are
Street directories are printed volumes listing names of individuals and/or businesses. Street Directories for Ulster begin to appear in the early 19th century. They were published for trade and business purposes largely as a result of the growth in trade at home and with the wider world, hence the emphasis on the listing of manufacturers, traders and merchants. This is illustrated by the title of Thomas Bradshaw's 1820 Directory (the earliest of the directories to feature on this website) - "...General and Commercial Directory" - which includes a list of English, Scottish and Irish bankers.
The work of compiling the directories was complex and time consuming. This was a consequence of, for example, people moving and changing addresses and the re-numbering and/ or re-naming of streets in Belfast due to it's huge growth (Belfast was one of the fastest growing cities in Europe in the late 19th century). Often the information was out of date by the time the directory was published, although the publishers did make an effort to include additions and removals in the directory even if received at a late stage in the publication.
Most directories have details for Belfast and for the principal towns and villages in Ulster.
Some (for example the 1831-2 Directory and Matier's 1835-6 Directory) feature only Belfast, but will also generally include a list of the gentry in the neighbourhood. These 'village directories' include a list of the principal inhabitants living on the outskirts of Belfast, for example in Dunmurry, Jordanstown and Newtownbreda, as well as an alphabetical listing referred to as "Country Residents".
Occasionally the directory is only for some provincial towns, for example the 1840 New Commercial Directory of Armagh, Newry, Londonderry etc.
Directories generally follow a similar layout (the database enables you to limit your search to particular sections of a directory):
Belfast features at the start of each Belfast and Ulster directory with an historical description and statistics of the borough. This is followed by a very comprehensive listing of public boards and government offices, charitable and benevolent institutions, educational establishments, literary and scientific societies and religious missions, societies and churches.
Next is an alphabetical listing of the principal inhabitants, merchants, shopkeepers etc. and their addresses; a listing of same by street and a listing of persons by profession and trade.
The provincial section of the directories usually has a section giving a description of the county - trade, population, administrative divisions, and principal institutions and office holders. This is followed by the provincial towns section, with each town having an introduction giving a history and description of the town and listing the institutions and office holders. Institutions that feature regularly are churches, schools, courts, the constabulary, post offices, infirmaries and asylums, prisons and workhouses. For each town there is a list of the nobility and gentry, clergy, professional people, traders and merchants, along with their addresses. There is no street listing for the provincial towns and not everyone who lived in the town or village will be listed.
Almost all the directories include advertisements for goods, services and commercial activities, either at the beginning or end of the directories and also throughout the volumes. Advertisements were one way of paying for the costs of producing the directories.
Street directories you can search in this application
The street directories featured on this website consist of scanned copies of those original volumes held by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) covering the years 1819 to 1900. It should be noted that this is not a comprehensive database as PRONI does not have copies of all street directories published before 1852. Even when the main run of the "Belfast and Ulster Street Directory" commences in 1852 there are gaps in the series up to 1900.
These volumes, which were previously on open access in the Search Room in PRONI, were very heavily used and the paper in some of the volumes is very fragile. They were therefore at risk as pages or parts of pages had already been lost or damaged and further handling would have endangered their long term preservation. As such, it was decided to scan the directories and to provide a search facility which would enable users to find key words in a section of a directory, in a particular directory or in any directories.
List of directories scanned:
- Bradshaw's General and Commercial Directory for 1819
- Belfast Directory 1831-32
- Matier's Belfast Directory 1835-36
- Martin's Belfast Directory 1839
- Martin's Belfast Directory 1841-42
- New Directory of the City of Londonderry and Coleraine, including Strabane with Lifford, Newtownlimavady, Portstewart and Portrush
- The New Commercial Directory of Armagh, Newry, Londonderry, Drogheda, Dundalk, Monaghan, Omagh, Strabane, Dungannon, Lisburn, Lurgan, Portadown and neighbouring towns
- Martin's Belfast Directory 1842-43
- Henderson's New Belfast and Northern Repository 1843-44
- Henderson's Belfast Directory and Northern Repository 1846-47
- Henderson's Belfast Directory and Northern Repository 1850
- The Belfast and Province of Ulster Directory 1852
- Henderson's Belfast Directory and Northern Repository 1852
- The Belfast and Province of Ulster Directory 1858-59 Volume 4
- The Belfast and Province of Ulster Directory 1863-64 Volume 6
- The Belfast and Province of Ulster Directory 1865
- The Belfast and Province of Ulster Directory 1866
- The Belfast and Province of Ulster Directory 1870
- The Belfast and Province of Ulster Directory 1877
- The Belfast and Province of Ulster Directory 1880
- The Belfast and Province of Ulster Directory 1884
- The Belfast and Province of Ulster Directory 1887
- The Belfast and Province of Ulster Directory 1890 Volume 13
- The Belfast and Province of Ulster Directory 1892
- The Belfast and Province of Ulster Directory 1895 Volume 16
- The Belfast and Province of Ulster Directory 1896
- The Belfast and Province of Ulster Directory 1897
- The Belfast and Province of Ulster Directory 1899 Volume 20
- The Belfast and Province of Ulster Directory 1900
More useful links
- PRONI - Public Record Office of Northern Ireland
- Family and local history records
- Family history, heritage and museums