05 April 2017

Any Watchmakers in your family tree?

Any Watchmakers in your family tree?

Just the other week I mentioned an 19th century collateral ancestor, John Ne(i)lson, watchmaker, who was Scottish born and lived in Limerick and Dublin for a bit in FREE Access to Irish Records at FindMyPast (13-17 March 2017).

A couple of days later, Ancestry blogged about Explore “Cogsworth” Actor Ian McKellen’s Family History of Watch Makers.

After two references to watchmakers in as many days, I knew it was time to do a bit of research on whether any records exist dedicated to watchmakers; the Ancestry piece mentioned census records and I talked about directories.

Another place to look are newspaper archives.  Watchmakers (sometimes also operated as jewelers) were always advertising their services to get new clients!

Maybe your watchmaker left an archive? Check Archivegrid.

There were publications dedicated to watchmakers et al such as The Watchmaker & jeweler, silversmith & optician, published in London (UK), whose archives are found via Internet Archive.

Maybe there is a guild or association that they belonged to like The British Watch & Clockmakers’ Guild or The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers (UK).

Has a book been published about watchmakers that is relevant?  Maybe Watchmakers and Clockmakers of the World or Pennsylvania clockmakers and watchmakers, 1660-1900 or The silversmiths of Georgia : together with watchmakers and jewelers, 1733-1850 or Old Clocks and Watches & Their Makers, or similar.

Has someone created a resource listing those who practiced the trade such as UK & Irish Clock and Watch Makers (c1600-c1940).

Or a national archive, such as the Smithsonian Learning Lab on Clock and watch makers might contain ledgers and other relevant material.

Hopefully you now have enough suggestions that you can start delving into your watchmaking ancestors!

If you have already researched your watchmaking ancestors, what resource(s) have you found helpful?

Editor’s Note: John was also mentioned in the post, Forget What You Know & Challenge Assumptions -- You MIght Just Knock Down that Brick Wall!

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