Business and Professional Licenses: An Unusual Source of Genealogical Information

Vital records, church records, census records, military records, and many others have become standard fare for genealogists. But, sometimes, finding records for ancestors requires searching for unusual records. Searching for heirs and descendants sometimes requires searching for even more unusual records.

Finding a Contractor’s License

Recently, while trying to locate a family in California, I came across an unexpected surprise while searching city directories. The person for whom I was searching was listed in an old city directory as a contractor. I immediately went to the phone directory for the same year as the city directory and found, in the yellow pages, a listing for this person’s company accompanied by his California Contractor’s License number.

I thought about contacting the state licensing board for more information and searched the world wide web for the address and phone number for the agency. I was hit with another surprise. Information on contractor’s licenses was available online!

The database provided the name of the company, the names of the principals (president, treasurer, etc.), information on when the various principals joined and left the company, information on violations, address of the business, and more.

Online information on State Contractor’s Licenses is available for all states in the United States. Some states only provide information on active licenses, but others provide information on active and expired licenses for the past several decades. Better yet, a single website, the Contractor’s License Reference Site, provides links to Contractor’s Licenses in all 50 states.

Other Business and Professional Licenses 

But that’s not all that’s available online. Information on Business Licenses and Professional Licenses is also available by searching for [name of state] business license, or [name of state] professional license.

For example, I used Google to search for New York State business license and found a website for the New York State Education Department’s Office of the Professions Online Verification Searches. For a state where 20th Century genealogical and family history information is difficult to access, this site is a gold mine. One can search for those in license professions such as Accounting, Acupuncture, Dentistry, Massage Therapy, Midwifery, Nursing, Social Work, Veterinary Medicine and many, many others.

I searched for the name Adele Smith under the profession of Dental Hygienist and was rewarded with the following results:

Name : SMITH ADELE L
Address : PULASKI NY
Profession : DENTAL HYGIENE
License No: 000844
Date of Licensure : 06/29/26
Additional Qualification :   Not applicable in this profession
Status : NOT REGISTERED
Registered through last day of :

The date of licensure was 06/29/26, indicating that the information in the New York State Online Verification Searches database goes way back in the 20th century.

Even better, the New York Online Verification Searches search engine will provide close matches in addition to exact matches, making it useful even if you don’t know the exact spelling of someone’s name.

Depending on the state, you may have to be more specific in your search in order to find licenses for a specific profession. A search for california state nursing license provided a searchable database for nursing licenses and a search for california state veterinary license provided a searchable database for veterinary licenses.

Searching for information on business and professional licenses can provide interesting details for your family history and assist in searches for heirs.

Copyright © 2007 by Stephen J. Danko

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