United States Business Records

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There have always been business records but the challenge to genealogists is that they are seldom identified as genealogical records. Governments from the earliest times have issued permits and licenses to allow businesses to operate. Also from the earliest times there have guilds and trade unions governing the activities of their members and keeping records. Many businesses have also produced biographical collections of the company's officers and employees. In the Unites States publicly owned companies often produce an annual report in printed form. Cities have produced city directories listing all of the businesses in the city and included, in many cases, all of the residents. It is also important not to overlook advertisement which may contain information about the owners or operators of a business.

Many of these business records have been preserved in various libraries and other record repositories.

Some commonly available business records include or are included in the following:

  • Mortuary records
  • Farming and agricultural records
  • Insurance records
  • Newspapers
  • Union records
  • Mining records
  • Business formation records
  • Churches
  • Railroads
  • Shipping and other transportation records
  • Business licenses and bonds
  • Professional licenses
  • Medical and Dental office records
  • Photography businesses
  • Business and other types of directories

There are many more possible categories which can be suggested by studying the types of records that may have been created in the course of the business operation.

Online Business Records Sites

A valuable reference book for all areas of genealogical research is Szucs, Loretto Dennis, and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking. The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy. Provo, UT: Ancestry, 2006. The entire book is online. Look in the chapter on Business, Institution and Organization Records.

All of the larger online genealogical record databases contain some business records. Some of these online sources are available only by subscription but check with your local FamilySearch Center to see if these online sources are available to patrons for free. Here are some online sources that contain business records:

Insurance Records

Employment Records

See also