Tradesmen guild records are a resource which I had heard about years ago, particularly in terms of English records. However, my English ancestors were mostly here in the early to mid-1600’s and I had no tradesmen that I knew for which to search. With my recent successes populating the Scandinavian branches of my family tree, I have not only searched for, but found, several guild records relating to my ancestors.
My first success with guild records came in Denmark, as my Jens Jensen Lundqvist, who was a carpenter and belonged to the Helsingor guild. I actually found two mentions of him in the records. I don’t read Danish, but got help in the Family History Library. Then first record is simply introducing him to the membership as a new member on 25 October 1790:
In the second record on 2 December 1790, he was mentioned as an apprentice:
I was so excited to find these two mentions of him because I have almost no other documents, aside from vital records, to fill in the details of his life. He was mentioned as a carpenter so I decided to read the guild records for the time period covering his adult life. There is no index, but there weren’t many records either, so it didn’t take very long to find him.
On a separate trip to Salt Lake, this time to investigate my Swedish family, I discovered that my Anders Molin was a master mason in the Ystad guild. He was born in 1740 and I found guild records for the 1700’s, but did not find him mentioned even one time. However, his father, Nils Molin, was a master weaver and I did find Nils in the guild records. He is the sixth entry in the Year 1737:
Nils Mohlin, 1737 Guild Member
Here is a close up look:
I suspect that he isn’t listed after 1737 because the family moved to Öved, a village to the north, and then moved on to Finja and Vankiva.
Again, the records are not indexed, but the page-by-page reading moved quickly.
My third success with guild records just happened a couple of days ago. My Hans Niclas Molin married Anna Kjersti Sandberg. The family lived in Malmohus County, Sweden (Skane County today). Anna Kjersti’s father, Johan Caspar Sandberg, was a shoemaker. Not a master, but a shoemaker nonetheless.
While browsing an alphabetical listing of records on ArkivDigital, my eye caught a glance of a BSO (bright shiny object) and I allowed myself to become distracted and followed its path. The BSO was “Skomakaregesallerna i Malmo.” I understand only a handful of words in Swedish, all related to records, e.g. birth, marriage, death, burial, etc. I know the word “skomakare” because of Johan Caspar. It means “shoemaker” and I suspected that this BSO related to shoemaker guild records in the city of Malmo.
I was correct – it did relate to exactly that topic. Johan Caspar Sandberg was born about 1738, based on his age at death. I haven’t found a birth record for him, I don’t even know wife Anna Stina’s maiden name because it wasn’t recorded on the couple of records I have found and I haven’t found their marriage record either. Anna Stina had a son born in 1761, before she married. The family lived in Genarp in the 1770’s, where their three known children were born. Shoemaker Sandberg and his wife both died there on the same day, but that is another story.
I need to fill in more details about Johan Caspar in order to locate these missing records. Neither he nor Anna Stina appear to have been born in Genarp. However, Malmo is a good sized city not far from there.
Low and behold, I found the following entry in the skomakaregesallerna records:
Johan Cp. Sandberg, 20 January 1760
Thanks to my newfound Swedish cousin Krister Thorell, I know what this says:
1760 January 20 the Brotherhood held a “krogdag” (something along the lines that they had a meeting at the tavern), then Johan Cp: Sandberg had his honest name written in the book of the Brotherhood. He has apprenticed to a shoemaker in Lund and now as a journeyman comes to Malmo.
The best part about this record is that I know my shoemaker 5x great grandfather lived at least for a time and perhaps was born and married in either Lund or Malmo. I’m not thrilled that they are both large cities, but I am very pleased that I have a starting place for expanding my search.
How do you find guild records? Guild membership had its heyday in the 1600’s and 1700’s, with a decline by the 1800’s. I can’t say I’ve ever looked for guild records in the United States and I suspect that they aren’t very common here. A quick search brought up a lineage society for descendants of tradesmen and artisans, but no links to guild records.
The UK National Archives provides a link to Ancestry.uk.
FamilySearch appears to be the best source of easily locating European guild records and the search needs to be local to a specific area. I contacted the Swedish National Archives to locate guild records for Skane County. There were regional archives in Ystad and Lund. The Ystad archives had no guild records for their city, but instead the Ystad records were in Lund and available on microfilm from the Family History Library. I did this outside search because I wanted to be sure that I wasn’t missing some obscure spot where records were being housed.
The Danish guild records were also found at the Family History Library, but were in the Granite Vault and had to be requested. I had them the day after the request was made. Same with the Swedish records.
If you have a craftsman or artisan ancestor placed in their European home, I would suggest checking local records to see if guild records covering his occupation are extant. In my case, two of the records enriched my knowledge of an ancestor and the third has provided two cities of residence where still more records may be found.