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

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Over half a million new Parish Records now available online

TheGenealogist logo

 

 

A collection of over half a million unique Parish Records has been added to TheGenealogist.

These cover the counties of Essex, Kent, Leicestershire, Monmouthshire and Worcestershire. The new online records offer invaluable records of baptisms, marriages and burials dating from the 1500s to the late 1800s from Anglican parish registers. The records are a great tool for those people looking to track down early ancestors before civil registration.

The latest releases bring the total to over 2 million parish records already added in 2014 with more to come. Fully searchable and clearly transcribed on TheGenealogist, they provide hundreds of years of records helping you find those early ancestors to further extend your family tree.

Mark Bayley, Head of Online Content at TheGenealogist remarked: “With Parish and Nonconformist Records it is possible to go back so much further and you never know what new surprises or dramatic events you may uncover in the records. We are continually adding more records to our already extensive collection throughout 2014.”

 

Discover surprising details that can be found in the Parish Record collection.

Many of the records are rare, historic parish records, published online for the first time and offer us unexpected information of dramatic events at the time. In the latest records, we find details of one of the protestant martyrs in the 1500s.

Martyrs burnt at the stake

Protestants in England & Wales were executed under Queen Mary I with legislation that punished anyone found guilty of heresy against Roman Catholicism. The standard penalty for treason was execution by being hung, drawn and quartered. In this case, however, the punishment of  “burning” was used for those found guilty of not being of the Catholic faith.

At least 300 people were recognised as martyred over the five years of Mary’s reign, causing her to be known as “Bloody Mary”. The name of one of the world’s most popular cocktail drinks is also said to be named after her!

A number of the executions were carried out in the county of Essex including that of linen draper, Thomas Wattes from Billericay, whose wife Elizabeth is found in the new parish records. Here we see the burial record of Elizabeth Wattes in the parish of Great Burstead on TheGenealogist. Her record describes her husband as a “Martyr of God” with the added extra note in the record giving details of his death- “The Blessed Martyr of God who for his truth suffered his martyrdom in the fire at Chelmsford.”

Martyr burnt at stake

Oliver Cromwell and his son Robert Cromwell

Robert Cromwell appears in the new parish record sets buried in the parish of Felsted in Essex, son of Oliver Cromwell. Robert was the eldest son of Oliver and Elizabeth Cromwell and he died whilst away studying at school at the age of 18. Here we find a copy of his burial record from 1639.

Robert Cromwell's burial. The son of Oliver Cromwell

 

 

The Genealogist site has an extremely comprehensive collection of data sets, which are ever growing. Their ability to react quickly to their customers was demonstrated to me only this week when I had a problem resolved by them within minutes of me bringing it to their attention.

At a time when social media is full of complaints about the functionality of other genealogical data sites, I’d recommend you take a serious look today at what is on offer from TheGenealogist

 

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online

Disclosure: Compensated affiliate links are used in this post.

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Records of 60,000 British civilians killed during WWII digitised

Ahead of Remembrance Day, Ancestry.co.uk, has today launched online the UK, WWII Civilian Deaths, 1939-1945 collection, listing the thousands of British citizens killed on the ‘Home Front’ during the Second World War.

 

The records, originally compiled by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, list almost 60,000 members of the British Commonwealth and Empire who were killed as a result of enemy action whilst going about their everyday lives or while at their posts as members of the Civil Defence Services.

 

The majority of the names listed were civilians killed in the aerial bombings by the German Luftwaffe (air force) as it attempted to bring Britain to its knees. These attacks on British cities, which took place from September 1940 to May 1941 are known collectively as The Blitz and led to around 40,000 deaths.

 

Nearly half of those killed in The Blitz (17,500) were Londoners, but several other cities were also badly hit, with Liverpool next worst off in terms of civilian deaths (2,677) followed by Birmingham, Bristol, Hull, Plymouth, Coventry, Portsmouth, Belfast and Glasgow.

 

Among the 59,418 names listed in the records is James Isbister, considered the first civilian casualty of WWII on home soil. He was killed in March 1940, when German bombers attacking Scapa Flow Naval Base, Orkney, jettisoned their remaining bombs over civilian territory as they fled back to Germany.

 

Hundreds of British civilians lost their lives before this point, most commonly in sea disasters when civilian ships hit military mines during the early months of the war. As the war progressed deaths at sea became all the more common, with thousands lost, as Germany used submarines to sink merchant ships in an attempt to restrict supplies to Britain.

 

More than 2,300 Civil Defence Service members also gave their lives whilst on duty, including air raid wardens, home guard, and members of the Women’s Voluntary Services.

 

One of the most notable names in the collection is actor and star of Gone With The Wind, Leslie Howard. He was killed in 1943 when the civilian airliner he was travelling in to Bristol was shot down. Historians have since suggested that the Luftwaffe may have attacked the non-military plane because German Intelligence believed Prime Minister Winston Churchill to be on board.

 

Before the war it was feared a sustained campaign of aerial bombings would lead to more than 600,000 deaths and as a result the 1937 Air Raid Precautions Act forced local councils to make provisions for defence. These varied from a widespread imposed blackout of all lighting from public and commercial buildings to the construction of bomb shelters and provision of gas masks.

 

The government also implemented widespread evacuation of major cities, with Operation Pied Piper responsible for the relocation of more than 3.5 million people – mainly urban children moved to safer homes in rural areas.

Several other famous names of the day can also be found within the digital records, including:

 

  • Albert Dolphin – Dolphin was working as an emergency hospital porter at what is today New Cross Hospital London when a bomb hit the kitchens of the building. A true Home Front hero, Albert rushed to the aid of a nurse trapped in wreckage and protected her as a damaged wall gave way. He was killed saving her life and was posthumously awarded the George Cross for his bravery.

 

  • James Baldwin-Webb MP – Baldwin-Webb, MP for The Wrekin in Shropshire and one of the most famous civilians of the day, was lost at sea. In September 1940, whilst travelling to Canada to fundraise for the Ambulance Corps, his liner SS City of Benares was torpedoed by a German submarine. He stayed aboard the ship to assist women and children onto lifeboats before going down with the ship.

 

  • Arthur Bacon – Bacon was a popular footballer, playing as a striker at Reading, Chesterfield and Coventry City – scoring 71 goals between 1923 and 1935. After his footballing career he served as a Special Constable in Derby where he was killed in 1942 (aged 37) during an air raid.

 

Miriam Silverman, UK Content Manager, from Ancestry.co.uk comments: “As we approach Remembrance Sunday, it’s important to not only remember those heroes who served and died in conflict but the thousands of ordinary people who lost their lives in Britain and the Commonwealth whilst battling to keep the country running at a very difficult time.

 

“This collection gives people the chance to find out about any Home Front heroes that might be in their family tree, and adds to the millions of military records available on Ancestry.co.uk from the past 100 years and more.”

 

Ancestry.co.uk is providing free access to 3.6 million military records between 8th and 12th November, including WWI Service Records 1914 – 1920, WWII Army Roll of Honour 1939 – 1945, Navy Medal and Roll Awards 1793 – 1972 and Victoria Cross Medals 1857 – 2007. To search for the war heroes in your family tree, visit www.ancestry.co.uk/start_military
 

Disclosure: Links are compensated affiliate links.

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New Speedier Search for Family History Research

All in one search for family history

I’ve been away for the last three weeks, some of which was spent on tracking down my ancestors and some of which was spent talking to living relatives and gathering more family history stories together.

While I was away my scheduled updates of this blog seemed to have gone awry. Here is one that should have gone out last weekend!

 

One of subscription sites that I use personally is TheGenealogist.co.uk and I see it has launched a brand new all-in-one search feature. This allows users to do a ‘single search’ across the entire website, which is a valuable extra dimension in my opinion.

The all-in-one interface now also incorporates their ‘keyword’ search, and they are pretty excited about this being the first time that these two features have been brought together to aid family history research.

With this great feature you are now able to instantly display all the records for a particular ancestor, whilst filtering out all the other irrelevant results from the search.

The press release tells us that.. “No other genealogical website currently produces such quick and relevant results for your ancestor search and has the flexibility to produce results for a number of different generations saving an enormous amount of time for researchers. Instead of offering search results that cast the net wide, like most genealogy websites, TheGenealogist segments the data down offering more accurate and relevant results – no more wasted time sifting through lots of irrelevant records to find the person you need.”

The Genealogist claims Accurate and reliable results in a fraction of the time explaining that for the first time you are able to enter an ancestor’s name into a search along with an approximate year for their birth and the option of keywords that can then trace an ancestors life through the records, from birth to census, marriage and more.

What is more is that Address Lists are also included, thus allowing the family history researcher to view other residents and view any other potential family links.

 

Mark Bayley, Head of the Online Division at TheGenealogist, feels the new search facility is an exciting new development in the world of online research:

“Customers will get a much deeper insight into their ancestors in a fraction of the time. They’ll be able to find everything we know about someone almost instantly with a single linked master search.”

“This is a powerful tool not currently available elsewhere. TheGenealogist is all about user-friendly searches, not just records and this new feature further enhances what we offer. We aim to make searches as useful as possible, we have our unique keywords searches that can scan our records quickly and it’s now quicker and easier than ever with our new All-In-One Search.”

With its new search tool and using just the basic information, TheGenealogist, can narrow searches down to the specific and allow the researcher the ability to generate successful accurate results. Ideal for all professional and amateur family historians. To take a look go to TheGenealogist.co.uk

The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online

Disclosure: The Links in the above are Compensated Affiliate links. If you click on them then I may be rewarded by The Genealogist.co.uk should you sign up for one of their subscriptions.

 

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Administrations in England & Wales up to 1858

If one of your ancestors, in your family tree, died without making a will, then their next-of-kin could apply
to the church courts for Letters of Administration to be granted to them. What would happen is that they
would then be bound in law by entering into a bond to administer the goods of the deceased. As well as family it is sometimes possible to find that a creditor is granted the letters of administration, but in all cases they are referred to as an Administrator, if they are male, whilst a female is known as an Administratrix.

A will and testament from the 19th century
A Will from the 19th century, online

You may well notice that administrations, or sometimes admons,are generally less informative for the family historian than wills are. That said, however, If you have found that one of your ancestors left no will, but their effects were dealt with by and administration, then at least the document will include: the name of the administrator(s) and bondsman, as well as the the relationship of the administrator(s) to the deceased. This could indeed be valuable to someone tracing their family tree. In addition to which, the administration may often include a date of death and the value of the deceased’s estate, that could help you fill in some gaps.

As in the case of wills, until 1858 it fell to the church courts  to be responsible for granting administrations. So for that reason you will need to use the same system to find administrations as you would do for finding wills of the same period. The main point to remember was that it is the same two provinces – the Prerogative Courts of York and of Canterbury – each controlled by an archbishop, that England was divided into.

A subdivision then occurs into several archdeaconries, and then further divisions again into rural deaneries. What all this means to the researcher is that there are over 250 church courts who were responsible in some way for the granting of letters of administration.

So where do we make a start? One answer is to take a look at the A2A website (Access 2 Archives) on the National Archives website:
www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/a2a

It is a fantastic database covering a myriad of records from over 400 record offices across not just England, but the whole of the UK.  Some of their records go back as far as the eighth century, while some come right up to date.

It is possible to search it by name, or a place and also by a topic and while it may not cover every single record office, by the very nature of its substantial coverage it can be used to search for probate material by using the key words ‘wills, administrations or inventories’ plus the region of the country that your ancestor died within.

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Wills & Administrations in English Family History

Wills can be of great use to any family historian for a number of reasons. They can furnish you with names of relatives, give you a description of the property that your ancestor owned at the time of their death and even reveal their favourite charity. Or though in my case I suspected that the charity that my aunt chose to leave the residue of her estate to was really her solicitor’s favoured charity and his suggestion!

Wills are one of the few documents written by your ancestor. For this reason they may give you an insight into their attitudes, social standing and their lifestyle. Perhaps, if you are lucky they can also explain family feuds and even expose scandals.

If, however, you discover that one of your ancestors seems to have been cut out of the will, you should always consider that this may not necessarily mean that they were disinherited. You should be open to considering that other arrangements had already been made for them in the lifetime of the deceased.

Quite a few family history researchers assume it is not worth checking if their ancestors left a will because they think their ancestor’s background precluded them from doing so. It is, however, wrong to believe that only a minority of people from the top of society left wills. Yes, it may be true that most people who left wills had some property of some kind or another. But wills can be found for people from amongst the very widest range of backgrounds.

Whilst it is perhaps true that only a small percentage of the population left a last will and testament, you should remember that for every person who did so means that there will be at least one other person mentioned in the document and this at least doubles your chance of finding a connection to your family tree, even if they are a distant relative.

It is possible, but not all that common, to find a will belonging to your family that pre-dates the parish registers, or even better where parish registers and the other primary sources have been destroyed or gone missing over the years.

You should know that before 1858 wills were generally proved in the church courts. In order to find a will in this time period will need you to have some understanding of the church hierarchy and how this bears relationship to the place or area that you are researching within.

So, what is a will?

It is a formal document stating exactly what a person desires should happen to their possessions after they have passed on. The person making a will is referred to as the Testator and they make a Last Will and Testament. This is actually a joint deed, the Will and the Testament.

Last Will and Testaments became the legal means of passing on one’s property in England in the year
1540. This was because it was only from that date that ‘Freehold’ land could be gifted or “devised” through a will. Before this date a “testament” was legally only concerned with what the law knows as “personality”. this is a term referring to personal property, that is a person’s moveable goods and chattels.

Why wasn’t it possible to pass on land? The answer lies with the fact that interests in “real property”, or the land and buildings your ancestors owned, would descend automatically to the deceased immediate heir. The church law, however, stated that at least one-third of a man’s property should pass directly to his widow as her dower and then one-third to all his children.

In theory these rules could not be broken, however property owners found ways that they could get around them. As an example, whilst “Copyhold land” – land held from the Lord of the manor – could not be left in a will before 1815, it could still be given up or “surrendered” to be used in a will. This effectively meant that it could be left to whomever a person wanted! Other methods of circumnavigating the rule was to transfer one’s property to trustees who would hold it during the owner’s lifetime as per that person’s instructions.

If you are lucky and find your ancestor has left a will you will see just how useful it is to the family historian.

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Finding Your Family Roots Using Genealogy Search Engines

Genealogy search engines are an incredible beginning point when trying to trace you family members line and discover who your ancestors were, what they did in the course of their lives and no matter whether they had produced any essential contributions to the world in any way.

Some genealogy search engines link you to internet sites which have large databases of info about folks from as far back as you are able to imagine, whilst other people make use of their own databases to help you discover the family line you’re trying to find. No matter which one you pick, it is possible to be sure that genealogy search engines can offer you an amazingly large push in the correct direction, even if they do not offer you the right outcomes appropriate off the bat. The key would be to keep in mind that you will find billions of records inside the databases you might be searching, and there may very well be hundreds of thousands of records which match you search criteria. This is why several of the genealogy search engines available let you to enter some information that refines the search even further to offer you precisely the results you are looking for.

1 of the great issues about making use of genealogy search engines is that they usually do not merely supply you having a list of sources. They are able to also lead you to other people that may possibly be looking for the exact same individual, or the identical family line that you simply are looking for. You might then locate that these folks have already observed some resources which you have been struggling to come across, while you are able to present them with data and resources that they have not yet come across. In this way, genealogy search engines provide you with genealogy resources which are proper to your search criteria, also as a network of similar people or people seeking comparable things…you might even be connected to lost cousins and household members along the way.

Whatever the reason is for your search, be certain to use genealogy search engines to create tracing your heritage that a lot less difficult.

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Step-mothers and half-sisters…

Ancestral Trails-The Complete Guide to British Genealogy and Family HistoryI really recommend that you read Mark Herber’s book Ancestral Trails, if you haven’t already. I was looking again at the first chapter in what is one of the best books on United Kingdom Ancestry and Genealogy there is.

This really is a wonderful book with much help for genealogical researchers and includes a brilliant section on understanding family relationships.

What? Is Nick telling us about some sort of self-help publication aimed at men and women going through a bad patch in their relationships? No, this tome has some useful things to say about the different phrases such as: stepfather/mother; half-brother/sister and so on.  Herber tells us, in simple terms, that the term “step” denotes that there is simply no blood connection connecting the parties and so the only sort of connection is going to be through marriage. “Half” is actually something different again. This is where the actual people share but one mother or father in common.

Now, because I have a stepmother, a half-sister and I also once had a step-grandfather, until he passed away, on my mother’s side, I am acutely aware of these terms. So, while all these relationships are inescapable fact, I shudder to myself as soon as I see these somewhat cold terms used to identify people whom I love dearly. It seems to me that, in using these prefixes, that I may be accused of trying to distance myself from these members of my family for some reason. Well I’d like to say here and now that this is far from the truth when it comes to my close family step, half or what ever they may be. When we are noting down our Family history, however, we sometimes have to be very precise in explaining a relationship to someone and so detail exactly how and where a person fits into our family tree. None more difficult than when we are confronted with illegitimacy in our lines.

Maybe in the twentieth century, to be born to parents who are unmarried carries little stigma, in the past it was a very different story; thus it ought to be handled sensitively whenever addressing loved ones of a different generation.

Returning to this chapter, provided by Mark Herber’s handbook, I was amused to realise that I had forgotten about defining cousins relationships. Whilst attending a family marriage, a few years back, I was introduced by Jenny, my first-cousin-once-removed to one of her friends of her own age group. Jenny said that I was her “Mum’s cousin” and in this she turned out to be wholly correct in this explanation of how we were related. As Herber pronounces: “Relationships involving cousins are more complex. Cousins are usually people who share an actual common ancestor… The offspring of a pair of siblings happen to be “first” cousins of each other. All the offspring of two first cousins are “second” cousins of each other and so on.”

Okay so far, but then we move on to deal with completely different generations. The word we utilise to be able to denote this is “removed” hence my first cousin’s daughter is my cousin once removed. As soon as she had a child it became my first cousin twice removed. We need to determine the number of intervening generations between ourselves and the particular common ancestor and utilize that number prior to the word “removed”. Now at this point comes the bit that I had forgotten!

“The concept “removed” is generally only used to express relationships down a family tree.” Therefore this had been precisely why Jenny, my first cousin once removed, as a child of my first cousin Julie is accurate as soon as she referred to me as her “mum’s cousin”

At this point closes the pedant’s lesson for today! 🙂

Mark Herber’s book Ancestral Trails obtainable from most good bookstores.

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