In another, currently unanswered, question (Where was Matthew Nettell, of Illogan, Cornwall, for the 1861 Census?) I sought the 1861 Census location for my 2nd great grandfather Matthew Nettell who was born in 1846 at Illogan, Cornwall and was recorded as being a Blacksmith on his 1865 Marriage Certificate (at Redruth, Cornwall).

Does anyone know the likely apprenticeship path he would have taken to assume this profession, and what records may be available for me to try and find where and when he may have done that?

2 Answers 2


By the nineteenth century, formal apprenticeship was becoming much less common. Compulsory apprenticeship ended in 1844. The 'apprenticeship path' for Matthew Nettell was therefore likely an informal agreement between friends or relatives to learn the trade. Records for informal apprenticeships rarely survive.

Parish apprenticeship, typically of poor children, did continue into the nineteenth century. Records of such apprenticeships, if they survive, would usually be deposited in the local records office. Notes about apprenticeships of poor children may be found in poor law records. Unsurprisingly, a search of the Cornwall Records Office catalogue does not turn up anything for Matthew Nettell, which suggests that his indenture (if there ever was one) has probably not survived.

The bottom line is that by the time Matthew Nettell was born there was no longer a formal or centralised system for apprenticeships. Sadly, because of this, records of apprenticeships in this period are very sparse.


My grandfather, who was born in St. Ives, Cornwall, England in 1864, was an apprenticed blacksmith. It appears the apprenticeship was done under a friend who was a blacksmith, as the census for St. Ives in 1880 shows him as an apprentice blacksmith. Sadly, that's all the information I have.

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