Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Old Occupations

One of the most interesting aspects of researching our ancestors is finding out what they did for a living. Occupations are usually listed on census records, as well as marriage and death certificates. A father's occupation can also be listed on the birth certificates of their children.

Often the occupations listed are easy to understand, for example stonemason or agricultural labourer. Sometimes, however, an ancestor will have had a job which no longer exists. I thought it would be interesting to provide a list of some old occupations that I have come across during the course of my family history research, although not necessarily those held by my own ancestors. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but is instead a selection of the jobs that I consider to be interesting.
  • Bagman - a travelling salesman
  • Boatswain - a ship's officer with the responsibility for the rigging
  • Botcher - a tailor or a cobbler
  • Caulker - somebody who made a ship's windows watertight
  • Cooper - a barrel maker
  • Dyker - a Scottish occupation relating to stonemasonry
  • Flesher - a butcher
  • Glover - a maker of gloves
  • Granger - a farmer
  • Hooker - a reaper of crops
  • Husbandman - a tenant farmer
  • Jagger - a fish seller
  • Lumper - a labourer, specifically in the use of timber
  • Mercer - a seller of cloth
  • Pelterer - somebody who works with animal skins
  • Poller - a barber
  • Quarryman - a stone cutter
  • Raker - a street cleaner
  • Skepper - a maker of baskets or hampers
  • Stevedore - a dock labourer, specifically involved in loading and unloading cargo ships
  • Textor - a weaver
  • Tipstaff - a policeman
  • Vulcan - a blacksmith or worker in iron
  • Wabster - a weaver
  • Wheeler - a wheel maker
  • Yeoman - a farmer and landowner
Once we have learnt the meaning of our ancestors' job titles the next step is to research what those jobs entailed. This is the part of the research which I personally find to be the most interesting. It can be fascinating to discover the precise nature of work in past times, in terms of how it affected living conditions. My research has included finding out about what was required in certain jobs, the wages paid, the working conditions, and the hours of work. It is research like this that really helps me to understand my ancestors' life experiences.

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