While collecting census records for my husband’s family in South Devon, England, I found an 1861 census entry for their family with a visitor/boarder who was a photographer. William Haddy was born around 1826 in Blackawton. Since he is listed as a Methodist Lay Preacher in the census, he is likely to be the son of Grace and John Haddy who was baptised 07 Dec 1825, listed in the England and Wales Non-Conformist Record Indexes (RG4-8) on FamilySearch.org. The most likely death registration for him is in Q2 1889 in Totnes Reg. District; I have not found an 1891 Census listing for him.

He is listed in White's 1878 Gazeteer and Directory with a Bolton Street address in Brixham.

Since Ancestry is having a promo this weekend, I’m collecting city directory entries from this collection:

Ancestry.com. UK, City and County Directories, 1766 - 1946 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013.

I may have found some hits from the British Newspaper Archive. I also remember finding a very useful article about how to track down relatives who were photographers, but all my previous finds are on an old hard drive which failed.

I'm wondering what resources might be useful in learning more about him. City directories, trade directories, and newspapers can give residence information or the locations he might have been in business, but how can I branch out from there and find out more about his photography?

The technical question of what kind of photography is in use at the time is more relevant to photography.SE, so I'll search over there as well. The New York Public Library has a research guide An Introduction to Photographic Processes with a history of photography timeline, and guides for their own collections.

On the book wishlist: My Ancestor Was A Studio Photographer by Robert Pols, published by the Society of the Genealogists

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    I've an interest in this question as one of my ancestors was also a photographer (when he wasn't a painter & decorator or grainer). There are websites with list of UK Victorian photographers but nothing I've found very useful so far.
    – user104
    Commented Dec 28, 2013 at 18:38
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    My husband's family has several people who were decorators -- mostly fresco painters, from the time when people painted scenes on the wall (like wallpaper, only with fresco techniques).
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Dec 28, 2013 at 19:12
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    Not necessarily useful to all occupations but for Victorian photographers, the Royal Photographic Society museum in Bath and the Fox Talbot Museum in Lacock (incidentally, where much of Harry Potter was filmed) have excellent information. Quite a lot of that information is available on their web sites.
    – Judith
    Commented Jan 14, 2014 at 19:13

2 Answers 2


You could try the national archives or The London Gazette newspaper. Most surviving historic business and trade records in the UK are held by local archives. I went via the national archives to find local directory for where my gguncle had gone since he'd left where the family had been, and still continued to be, to try and find out why he had gone 100 miles.

The OP mentioned a photographer, well the london gazette carried lots of commercial ads often from such as photographers and so searching these may give you their advert.


I'll leave a short self-answer to recap what I've found since posting my question.

The Victorian Image Collection's website Photographers of Great Britain and Ireland 1840 - 1940 offers help in dating carte de visite photographs and is assembling a series of biographies for photographers of the period.

William Haddy is listed by name, with no other information, in their alphabetical list of photographers (see the H page).

The site says:

Addresses and dates of operation can be bought immediately on-line at http://www.victorianphotographers.co.uk The powerful search facility there will identify the type of information available for each photographer.

Searching http://www.victorianphotographers.co.uk/ results in the following:

Haddy, William Brixham Address Date/s

From the information given on the results page about their codes, and their FAQ:More details of information that will be supplied, I suspect that the date and address information they would supply is the same as I had already found in trade directory listings when I wrote the question. But I'll leave the links here for people seeking more well-known photographers who might turn up in their biography section.

The website of Who Do You Think You Are Magazine has a series of guides on researching the occupations including one on Photographer ancestors.

Some of the links in that guide are no longer active, but their further research section suggests visiting The National Media Museum's website. The National Media Museum now holds the collection of the Royal Photographic Society. The NMM website offers a series of Articles and Fact Sheets including one on How to Date Victorian Photographs and Researching Your Photographer Ancestors.

Another source of information is Rosemary & Stan Rodliffe's site Early Photographers. They have searchable databases organized by county but there is no entry for Devon so far. Their pages of Biographies and the History of Photography has lots of good information (and their site includes Edwardian photographers as well as Victorian).

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