English Occupations: Finding More About Your Ancestor

A contact asked me about occupations recently and so I found them this really helpful article by professional genealogist Rosamunde Bott. I am sharing it here for everyone to read.

tracing ancestors in the uk

English Occupations: Finding More About Your Ancestor
By Rosamunde Bott

Whilst rooting around in your family history, you will learn what your ancestors did for a living – at least as far back to the early 1800s. This is often one of the most fascinating aspects of discovering who your ancestors were. Whether they were a lowly agricultural labourer, or a highly respected surgeon or magistrate, the curious and wide range of English occupations can lead you to further knowledge of how they lived their lives on a day to day basis. For some people it can be exciting to discover that a creative gene, such as writing or painting has made its way down to the present.

Much of this information can be found on the census, at least back to 1841, and sometimes beyond depending on the availability of records. Some earlier parish records did mention a man’s occupation, and other records, such as directories, wills, property deeds and tax records can also give occupational details.

Many of you will have come across occupations that are now obsolete, and will often need further explanation. What, for example, is a night soil man? Or a calenderer? Or a fag ender?

The first of these might have been found in any large town or city, emptying dry toilets in the days before plumbing. Not a job I would like to imagine any of my ancestors doing – but fascinating nonetheless.

The other two are connected to the textile industry, and will usually be found in those industrial areas where cotton was being produced – for example, Manchester. A calenderer was just a generic term for a textile industry worker. A fag ender was someone employed to trim off loose bits of cloth known as fags.

If you trawl through the census records for specific areas, you will of course find a wealth of occupations connected to that area’s industry. Sticking with Manchester for the moment, you will find many jobs associated with the cotton industry, and among the weavers, winders, packers and piecers you might also come across Fustian cutters (cloth workers who trim corded cloth), beamers (people who handle materials before weaving), billiers, billy roller operations or billymen (all terms for cotton spinners) or even an impleachers (cloth weavers).

When you find that an ancestor’s origins are in a particular area, it is worth while finding out about the major industries there, because this will no doubt have had some effect on your ancestor’s life, even if he (or she) was not directly involved in it.

For example, shoemakers are known everywhere – but a shoemaker working in Manchester would probably have had a different experience to a shoemaker who worked in a more rural area, or on the coast. Is he making shoes for factory workers, agricultural labourers, fishermen or for the well-to-do?

If your ancestor moved around, it was very likely it was to find work. Undertaking a bit of historical research on the local industries can give you a good indication of why your ancestor moved from one town to another. My own great-great grandfather started out as a bricklayer in Newcastle-under-Lyme, and moved to Birmingham where he became a builder and employer. You only need to find out about the building boom going on in Birmingham in the mid-19th century to work out why he made the choice to move!

Some occupations can lead you to finding further documentation. For example, workers in skilled trades may well have started out as an apprentice, and you may find the apprenticeship records at the local record office. These can give you further details about his origins and parentage.

If your ancestor worked for a big company, it may be worth finding out whether there are staff records in existence. If the company still exists, they may even keep their own set of archives.

Not only are occupations interesting in themselves – they can lead you to find out further information, whether it is more family records, or information about how your ancestor lived, and under what conditions. Much information about trades and occupations can be found on the internet, and there are many books about various trades and industries. The Society of Genealogists publishes a range of books entitled “My Ancestor was….”

Old English occupations are varied and wide-ranging, and they can tell you much about your ancestor. Make sure you always follow up this line of enquiry and find out as much as possible about what he (or she) did for a living.

Ros is a professional genealogist and runs a UK ancestry tracing service for UK and international researchers who need help with their UK ancestry. Ros offers a one-stop-shop tracing service for all UK ancestors, or record look-ups in Warwickshire and Birmingham. Find out more at Tracing Your Ancestors

Article Source:  English Occupations: Finding More About Your Ancestor

As a professional genealogist Ros has contributed some material to the Family History Researcher Course.

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Murderous Madam and the Policeman

George Le Cronier's Memorial, Green Street, St.Helier.

I’ve been having a look at the S&N newsletter, that popped into my email box at the end of the week.

What caught my eye was a fascinating Victorian murder story that took place in the St Helier streets quite local to where I live. I’ve come across it before in the book The Policeman and the Brothel by Theodore Dalrymple, but this is the first time that I’ve seen it written from the family history records point of view!

It was fascinating to see the Illustrated London News report from March 7th 1846; the census records, with the tell tale blanks for the occupations of the young  prostitutes, and the criminal records showing the killer was transported for life to Van Diemens land. Also to be seen is the huge monument for the murdered policeman in Green Street cemetery, a picture of which can be searched for in TheGenealogist’s growing Volunteer Headstone Database that now includes many Jersey burials.

 

The newsletter isn’t just about this story. They begin with a look at what will be coming online from their group throughout 2015:

Parish Records, detailed County and Tithe Maps, millions of new Medals Records, more Grave Memorials from the Volunteer Headstone Project, records of Railway Workers from Pensions to Staff Movements, Jewish records, detailed Street Maps, Passenger Lists, Emigration Records and more War Memorials are all going online at TheGenealogist this year.

And then we hear that this month they’ve released more War Memorials, Parish Records and have now added the 1911 census for all Starter and Gold Subscribers! You can make the most of this with £30 cash back on an Annual Gold Subscription, making it just £48.95 for the first year!

There’s no better way, they suggest, to start the new year than with some special offers – you can claim £50 cashback on a Diamond Subscription to TheGenealogist, and save £££s in their New Year Sale over at S&N Genealogy Supplies. The news letter also takes a look at 2014 in a review.

Finally, there is that interesting article I’ve already drawn you attention to above about Ancestors that fell foul of the law. As the S&N team write in the email, these are always fascinating subjects for family history research and I would say none more than a Victorian murder story of a notorious Madam who escaped the hangman’s noose!

 

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online

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Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2014

 

Who Do You Think You Are? Live

Its here!

The largest family history show in the world!

 

This week (Thursday 20th, Friday 21st and Saturday 22nd) Who Do You Think You Are? Live comes to Olympia with stands from all the major genealogical websites, family history suppliers, expert advice, talks from celebrities from the TV programme and a myriad of workshops.

The Nosey Genealogist will be there too on stand 56 showcasing our Family History Researcher Beginners English & Welsh Family History Course. As a special show offer we have re-introduced the popular £1 trial membership of our course that gives you two weeks lessons and some free bonus content.

To take advantage of this either come along to our stall, number 56 on the ground floor, or head over to our special trial webpage at http://www.familyhistoryresearcher.com/WDYTYAcomp/

The Nosey Genealogists has gathered together in one fixed-term-membership site a collection of 52 weekly lessons that will aid the beginner in English & Welsh family history to become a more knowledgeable researcher.

Also of great value to the more advanced, the course explores the different resources, data sets and documents that can reveal more about your English or Welsh ancestors.

 Nick Thorne

Written from the practical point of view by Nick Thorne, an advanced beginner (as even the most experienced researcher is always learning more) and, with the aid of some lessons penned by professional genealogists, this course is delivered by email to your inbox to do at your own pace.

 

Topics covered in the 12 months include:

  • The census collections
  • The Parish records
  • The Parish Chest
  • Dade Registers
  • County Record offices and what valuable treasures they contain
  • Nonconformist
  • Religious records
  • Clandestine marriages
  • City and Town Directories
  • Census substitutes
  • Apprentices
  • Professionals
  • Army
  • Royal Navy
  • RAF
  • Merchant Navy
  • Illegitimacy
  • The Workhouse
  • Poor Law
  • Death records
  • Burial
  • Wills
  • Rural ancestors
  • Bankrupts
  • Black sheep
  • Genetics and DNA
  • Occupations
  • Maps and Charts
  • The National Archives
  • Other depositories
  • Family Search Centres
  • Passports
  • Manorial records
  • Newspapers
  • and more!

 

If you are attending the show then do please come over and say hello and tell us that you read this blog. You will then be able to enter our competition to win a free copy of our next product due out soon!

 

WDYTYA?LIVE Olympia 2010

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Unique Lawyer and Electrical Engineer War Records now available to view on TheGenealogist

Its always a pleasure, for those of us researching our family tree, when a new set of records are released and today I’ve heard from TheGenealogist about a couple of new data sets that they have added to their ever growing website.

The theme is how the professional occupations played their part in the Great War – Unique Lawyer and Electrical Engineer War Records now available to view on TheGenealogist.

I will let them explain the details…

Professional records

As part of its continuing commitment to add specific and unique research material to its collections, TheGenealogist has now added two unique record sets relating to professional organisations and their members during World War One. These two long established professions significantly played their part in the Great War. As their members contained some of the most skilled and talented professionals in their field, many became officers and casualty rates were high.

The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple is one of the four London based Inns of Court for the law profession and has been a separate legal society since 1388. Offering accommodation to practitioners of the law and their students with facilities for education and dining, the organisation proudly produced commemorative records of their members between 1914 to 1918. The information includes their regiment, rank and if they were injured, killed or missing in action. The Inner Temple list includes the record of future prime minister, Clement Atlee who was called to the Bar at the Inner Temple in 1906. He served as a Lieutenant in the South Lancashire Regiment and was the penultimate man to be evacuated from Gallipoli. He was later seriously wounded in Mesopotamia before serving in France. His war service helped shape him into a distinguished prime minister who presided over a radical, reforming government.

The Institute of Electrical Engineers (The IEE) was founded in 1871 and became the professional organisation for all electrical engineers. Pioneering developments in electrical engineering, its’ members were at the forefront of technical advancements in the early 1900’s and included many talented engineers.

The IEE war records are a tribute to members who died in the War. A number of promising engineers lost their lives and the records give an in-depth biography into the background, education, engineering career and war service, including details on how they sadly died. Many of the records come with a picture of the member commemorated as in the case of this ‘student’ member featured below.

 

TheG ProfWWISecond Corporal Charles Burrage, who had been awarded the 1st Class Diploma for best 3rd year student in Electrical Engineering at Battersea Polytechnic, he gave up his job to join the Royal Engineers and was posted to France in 1915. During the Battle of Loos he won the Military Medal for bravery in maintaining telegraphic communication between the front and headquarters. He was killed shortly after in an attack on German positions.

Many educated professionals were chosen for their intelligence and leadership skills to become junior officers. Casualty rates were high as these young officers were often at the forefront of the attack.

Available to view in the ‘Roll of Honour’ section of the Military Records on TheGenealogist, the records are taken from the ‘The Roll of Honour of The Institution of Electrical Engineers’ publication and a ‘Roll of Enlistment’ publication produced by The Honourable Society of The Inner Temple.

Mark Bayley, Head of Online Content at TheGenealogist comments: “Using our ancestor’s occupations can lead us to find more information about events that happened in their lives. Here we’ve used their membership of professional organisations to find out more about their war service and heroism in the First World War along with autobiographical information. It’s a great source that can really boost our knowledge of an ancestor.”

 

 

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