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Knowing an ancestor’s occupation can help you distinguish him or her from other individuals with the same name. The records associated with your ancestor’s occupation could provide information about his or her life and family. Some occupations are more likely to have records about the people in those occupations than others. There are many records of people in trades, such as bootmakers and tailors.

Contents

What was my ancestor's occupation?

If you know:

  • the person's name
  • the geographical area where they worked
  • a date range to focus your search

then there are several useful places to start searching for your ancestor's occupation:

  • Census records. The decennial census recorded the occupation of those enumerated. From 1851 trades could be listed in the census in order of importance if a person had more than one source of income. For more information on using census records, see: England Census.
  • Vital Records. Parish records of baptisms and marriages usually record the occupation of the father of the child in the case of a baptism and the occupations of the parties and their fathers in the case of a marriage. Parish records of burials less often record the occupation of the deceased. Civil registration of births, deaths and marriages will contain the occupation of the father in the case of a birth, the deceased in the case of a death (sometimes also that of the father) and, in respect of marriages, the occupations of the parties and their fathers. For more information on using these records, see: England Vital Records.
  • Directories. From the 18th century, variously styled publications began being produced which contained alphabetical lists of persons, their trades and addresses. In the 1840s, street directories began to appear which included among its listings the occupation of the householder. Post Office officials began publishing their local Post Office Directory. For more guidance on using trade and other directories, see: Directories in England and Wales.

Other possible sources for your ancestor's occupation include migration records, passenger lists, naturalisation records, wills and probate records, land and property records, military records which will also record the occupation on enlistment, and newspaper reports.

Historical Occupations

Learn more about:

The Oxford English Dictionary is the definitive source for occupation definitions. Of great value to the family historian, it also provides time periods when occupational terms were in use. RootsWeb has a general list.

For classification of occupations in England, see:

  • General Register Office. Classification of Occupations, 1960. London, England: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1960. (Family History Library book Q 942 U2gr.)

Occupational Training

To learn a trade, an individual had to be apprenticed. Records were usually created of the agreement between the master (the one doing the teaching) and the person (father, guardian) or the organization (parish) placing the apprentice.

A child could be apprenticed by his father or by the parish council if the child was an orphan or a pauper. A person was apprenticed between the ages of 7 and 18 years. An indenture was a legal agreement that bound the apprentice to serve a number of years, usually 7. Indentures usually contain the names of the apprentice and the master, the master’s trade and residence, the terms of apprenticeship, and sometimes the name, occupation, and residence of the apprentice’s father.

After learning the trade, the apprentice became a journeyman. A journeyman was an employee who received wages.

Master was the level after journeyman. A master was the most skilled craftsman.

Apprenticeship Tax

Between 1710 and 1811 a tax was assessed on the masters of the many who were apprenticed. For more information about these tax records, see the Taxation topic page.

Apprenticeship books of Great Britain: Inland Revenue, town registers, Oct. 1711-Jan. 1811 and country registers, May 1710-Sept. 1808; and indexes to apprentices, 1710-1774 and indexes to masters, 1710-1762 See the following:

  • Images of original records 1710-1811 at Ancestry (£)
  • Online index 1710-1774 at FindMyPast (£)

Guilds

Often the craftsmen of the same trade banded together to regulate trade and protect their members’ interests. The organization they formed was a guild. Those belonging to the guild were given special privileges, such as voting, and were called freemen. In a city a freeman was also called a citizen. In a town or rural area, he was called a burgess.

The city livery companies developed from the craft guilds of the 12th to the 15th centuries. The word livery originally referred to the distinctive uniform granted to each company. It now also denotes a company’s collective membership.

Guild records contain lists of members, information on journeymen practicing in the town, and advancements from the rank of apprentice to journeyman and from journeyman to master. Contracts between masters and parents of apprentices may also be included.

Freemen records are more useful than apprenticeship records because they usually give ages, birthplaces, parentage, and occupations.

Trades' Records

Guild records are usually among city or borough records or in the possession of the modern guild. Many are in London at the Guildhall Library. Chapter 14 in the following book explains guild records:

  • A Guide to Genealogical Sources in Guildhall Library. Second Revised Edition. London, England: Corporation of London, 1981. (FHL book 942.1/L1 A3g 1981. BYU Harold B Lee Library book CS 414 .G84x 1988.)

Freemen and apprenticeship records are usually at the county record offices.

Many of the London Guild records have been indexed and are available:

London Guild Records Indexes Online

British Origins has an index of just under 500,000 names a this link for London Apprentices 1442-1850 (£) from indexes created by Cliff Webb.

The Family History Library Indexes and Records of London

The London Livery Company Apprenticeship Registers are in book form and indexes [1]]

The Family History Library has a good collection of books on the histories of occupations and guilds. The Family History Library has a very good collection of the London Guild Records on microfilm. [2]]

Professionals

In early use, the term "profession" was limited to the law, the established Church, and medicine (these three often called the "learned professions") and sometimes extended to the military profession. Training was undertaken, not through apprenticeship, but at schools, colleges and universities, although the solicitors' branch of the law was subject to a special form of apprenticeship called 'articles' undertaken by articled clerks.

Members of the did not join guilds; they had their own associations, disciplinary bodies and publications. For details see:

See also:

Government employees and officeholders

Records of persons employed in various occupations by the government have survived in various archives. They are usually organised by employer rather than occupation. Details of officeholders have also been complied.

Main article: England Occupations, Coastguards, Lifeboats, Lighthouses (National Institute)
Main article: England Customs and Excise Records (National Institute)


Occupational Indexes for Finding Ancestors

INDEX
ADDRESS
Brassworkers 1500-1900
Ms. Pat Santaana, 29 Gilda Court,
Watford Way, Mill Hill,
London NW7 2QN
Brickmakers

David Cufley, 55 Broomhill Road,
Dartford, Kent DA1 3HT

British Library, Oriental
and India Office
Collection
Catalogue and searchable indexes.
Brushmakers
Kenneth A. Doughty,
The Society of Brushmakers’ Descendants,
13 Ashworthy Place, Church Langley, Essex CM17
9PU .
Canal and River Boatmen
and Allied Trades
John Roberts, 52 St. Andrew's Road
Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands B75 6UH
Canal Boat People of
Wolverhampton, N.
Staffs, S. Cheshire and
Chester
Wolverhampton Archives and Local Studies, 42-50 Snow Hill,
Wolverhampton WV2 4AG
Catholic nuns
Catholic Family History Society
Clay Pipe Makers and Society for Clay Pipe Research

Coastguards
Mrs. E.R. Stage, 150 Fulwell Park Ave
Twickenham, Middx TW2 5HB
Coastguards in Sussex
See Family Roots (Eastbourne) FHS
Coastguards in Ireland
Tony Daly, 30 Gledswood Park, Clouskeagh, Dublin 14, Replublic of Ireland
Coastguards from
various ADM classes
Andy Chapman, 161 Totterdown Street, Tooting, London SW17 8TE
Combmakers
Ron Bowers, Road End Cottage, Stockland, Honiton,
Devon EX14 9LJ
Combmakers and Horners
Robert Watts, 34 Cherry Orchard, Wootton-under-Edge,
Gloucestershire GL12 7HT
Customs Officers
Mrs. June Underwood, 174A Wendover Road, Weston Turville, Bucks HP22 5TG
Dissenting Ministers (Surman Index)
Dr. Williams’s Library, 14 Gordon Square, London
WC1H 0AG
Divers
Andrea Cordani, 190 Queens Road, Walthamstow, London E17 8PL
Entertainers
Marjorie P. Dunn, 2 Summer Lane,
Sheffield, Yorkshire S17 4AJ
Family Roots(Eastbourne) FHS
94 Northbourne Road, Eastbourne,
East Sussex BN22 8QP
Email: sarahslaughter@madasafish.com
Family Tree Magazine

Fire Insurance Index Maureen Shettle, 2 Bury Mews,
Millmead Terrace, Guildford, Surrey GU2 5AS
Gamekeepers 1711-1900
Ms Dolina Clarke, 22 Portobello Grove, Fareham,
Hampshire PO16 8HU
Gas Industry Genealogical Index
Terry Mitchell, Old Barnshaw Cottage,
Pepper Street, Mobberley,
Cheshire WA16 6JH.
Email: TMM@Tinyworld.co.uk
Glassmakers
Mr. B. Hardyman, 26 St. Anne’s Drive,
Coalpit Heath, Bristol, Avon BS17 2TH
Index of Indexers
Brian Jones, 32 Myers Avenue, Bradford,
West Yorkshire BD2 4ET
India Office Records
Catalogue and searchable indexes.
India websites

Inland Waterways
John Roberts, 52 St. Andrews Road
Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands B75 6 UH
Johnston Index obituaries)
Manchester College Library,
Mansfield Road, Oxford OX1 3TD
Lacemakers
Mrs. Jennifer Hanney, 155 Ridgeway Drive, Bromley,
Kent BR1 5DB
Land Tax E 182 Exchequer: King's Remembrance: Particulars of Account or Land and Assessed Taxes

Lawyers
Tim Cockerell, The Old Mill House,
Weston Colville, Cambridge CB1 5NY
Lighthouseman
Mr. C. Trethewey, 135 Stanborough Road, Plymstock, Plymouth, Devon
Metropolitan Police Consolidated Index
Mr. Chris Forester, 23 Brittain Road, Hersham, Surrey KT12 4LR
Midland Railway
See Wyvern M. R. Index
Millers, Mills and Millwrights
Tony and Mary Yoward, 4 Slipper Mill,
Emsworth, Hants PO10 8XD
North of England Mining
Accident Victims 1858-1899
George Bell, Original Indexes, 113 East View,
Wideopen, Tyne and Wear NE13 6EF
Papermakers in the British Isles
Mrs. Jean Stirk, Shode House, Ightham,
Kent TN15 9HP
Perukemakers
Mrs. V.A. Given, Garden House,
Horton, Northampton NN7 2BB
Police Gazette

Publicans and Pubs, Inns and Taverns
Stan Gooch, 144 Anerley Road,
London SE20
Email: Pubsindex@drones.ndirect.co.uk
Quilt makers
Thelma East, Delamorn, Ladywood,
Droitwich, Cheshire WR9 0AJ
Railway and Canal Historical Society Index

Royal Irish Constabulary 1816-1882 1882-1921
On FHL fiche 6344743(8) and FHL fiche 6344782(7)
Royal National Lifeboat Institution Museum and Archives

Shoemakers
Information Officer, Boot and Shoe Collection, Central Museum, Guildhall Road, Northampton, Northants NN1 1DP
Smith’s Inventory on fiche from Family History Library
England FHL fiche 6110526 (96)
Ireland FHL fiche 6110527 (18)
Scotland FHL fiche 6110528 (18)
Wales FHL fiche 6110529 (14)
Stonemasons
Mr. M.J.A. Miller, Sanderlings, Plovers Barrows,
Buxted, East Sussex TH22 4JP
Surman Index (Dissenting Ministers)
Dr. Williams’s Library, 14 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0AG
Telecommunications
British Telecom Archives, 3rd Floor, Holborn
Telephone Exchange, 268-270 High Holborn, London
WC1V 7EE
Tobacco Pipe Makers
Peter J. Hammond, 68 Byron Road, West Bridgford,
Nottingham, Notts NG2 6DX
Trades and Skilled Occupations Bibliography
George Nicolle, 33 Torr Road, Hartley, Plymouth PL3 5TF
Unitarian obituaries (Johnston index)
Manchester College Library, Mansfield Road, Oxford OX1 3TD
The Company of Watermen and Lightmen of the River Thames

West Country Stone and Quarrymen

Woad-people
Mrs. V. Billington, 502 Wellsway, Bath,
Avon BA2 2UD
Watermen and Lightermen Apprentice bindings on fiche or CD
Rob Cottrell, 19 Bellevue Road, Bexleyheath, Kent DA6 8ND
Email RJCindex@aol.com

Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section

Wyvern M.R. Index
(Midland Railway)
Chris and Judy Rouse, 18 Sarsen Close
Swindon, Wiltshire SN1 4LA
Email: chris@rouse31.freeserve.co.uk[1][2]

Useful Addresses for Occupational Organizations

Artists Papers Register
Baptist Union and B.U. Library Baptist House, PO Box 44, 129 Broadway, Didcot, Oxfordshire OX11 8RT 4 Southampton Row, London WC1
Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood

Cambridge Heath Road, London E2 9PA
Email: kbones@vam.ac.uk

Brewery History Society
British Coal (see Hayes Info. Man.) Headquarters, Hobart House, Grosvenor Place, London SW1
British Library 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB
British Music Hall Society Max Tyler, 76 Royal Close, Chichester, West Sussex PO19 2FL
British Theatre Association 9 Fitzroy Square, London
Church of England Record Centre Church House, Great Smith Street, London London SW1P 3AZ
Circus Friends Association John Turner, Lingdales Press, 15 Lingdales, Formby, Liverpool L37 7HA
City of London Chamberlain’s Court Clerk, CLCC, Guildhall, Aldermanbury, London EC2P 2EJ
City of London Police
Records Office

Clothworkers’ Company (London) Clothworkers’ Hall, Dunster Court, London EC3R 7AH
Commission of Irish
Lights
[lighthouses]
Harbor Road
Dun Laoghaire
Ireland
Corporation of London PO Box 270, Guildhall, Aldermanbury, London EC2P 2EJ
Courage Brewery Archivist Ken Thomas, Courage Ltd, PO Box 85, Bristol, Avon BS99 7BT
Dr. Williams’s Library 14 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0AR
Drapers’ Company (London) Drapers’ Hall, 27 Throgmorton Street, London EC2N 2DQ
East India Company Oriental and Indian Office Collections
British Library, 96 Euston Road
London NW1 2DB
Era, The (theatrical magazine)
Essex Police Museum P.O. Box 2
Police HQ, Chelmsford, Essex CM2 6DA
Fairground Association of Great Britain
Fairground Society
Families in British India
Society

Family History Library 35 N West Temple Street, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA 84150
Guards Combined
Record Office
Wellington Barracks, Birdcage Walk
London SW1E 6HQ
Goldsmiths’ Company (London) Goldsmiths’ Hall, Foster Lane, London EC2V 6BN
GWR (Great Western
 Railway) Museum
Fire Fly Avenue, Kimball Drive, Swindon
SN2 2EY
Guildhall Library Aldermanbury, Longon EC2V 7HH
Hays Information Management (for British Coal personnel records) Cannock Record Centre, Old Mid-Cannock Closed Colliery Site, Rumer Hill Road, Cannock, Staffs WS11 3EX
House of Lords Record
Office
House of Lords, London SW1A 0PW
Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales The Registrar, Gloucester House, 399 Silbury Boulevard, Central Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire MK9 2HL
International Dictionary of Veterinary Biography
International Police
Association
-British
Section-Genealogy
Group

Jerwood Library of Performing Arts King Charles Court], Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, London. SE10 9JF(Formed from Mander-Michenson Theatre Collection + Library of Trinity College of Music).
University of Manchester Library
University of Manchester, Oxford Road, , Manchester M13 9PP
Law Society
113 Chancery Lane, London WC2A 1PL
Leathersellers’ Company (London)
Leathersellers’ Company, 21 Garlick Hall ,London EC4U 2AU
Lloyd's Register of
Shipping Information
Centre
71 Fenchurch Street London EC3M 4BS
London and N. Western
Railway Society-Staff
History Group

London Fire Brigade
Museum
169 Union St, London SE1 0LL
London Metropolitan
Archives
40 Northampton Road, London EC1R 0HB
Harris Manchester College Library
Mansfield Road, Oxford OX1 3TD
Mander and Micheson Theatre Collection
University of Bristol
Maritime History Archive Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada A1C 5S7
Master Mariners’ Company
The Clerk, Master Mariners’ Hall, HQS ‘Wellington’, Temple Stairs, Victoria Embankment, London WC2R 2PN
Mercers’ Company (London)
Mercers’ Hall, Ironmonger Lane, London EC2V 8HE
Merseyside Maritime Museum
Albert Dock, Liverpool L3 4AQ
Methodist Archives and Research Centre
John Rylands University Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester M3 3EH
Metropolitan Police
Archives and Museum
New Scotland Yard, Victoria Street
London SW1 0BG
National Archives of
Scotland
HM General Register House
2Princes Street
Edinburgh EH1 3YY
National Fairground Archive
NFA, Main Library, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN
National Maritime
Museum
Romney Road Greenwich
London SE10 9NF
National Railway Museum Leeman Road, York YO2 4XJ
National Telephone Library
BT Archives and Historical Information Centre, Telephone House, 204 Temple Avenue, London EC4Y 0HL
Patent Office

Patents at British Library

Police History Society
(academic, not family history oriented)

Port of London Police Archives c/o
Police Station, Tilbury Dock, Tilbury
Essex RM18 7DU
The British Postal
Museum and Archive
Freeling House, Phoenix Place
London WC1X 0DL
Public Record Office
Ruskin Avenue, Kew, Surrey TW9 4DU [from April 2003 renamed The National Archives]
Railway Ancestors
Family History
Society
Lundy Guest House, King Edward Street Barmouth, Gwynedd
Email: rafhs@binternet.com
Railway and Canal
Historical Society
Red Cross - Within Britain
Director, International Welfare Department, British Red Cross
Society, 44 Morefields, London EC2Y 9AL

-From outside Britain
International Council of the Red Cross, Archives Division, 19 Avenue
dela Paix, CH-1202, Geneva, Switzerland.
Registry of Shipping and Seamen Anchor Court, Ocean Way, Cardiff, Wales CF24 5JW (for merchant seamen 1941 to date)
Romany and Traveller FHS

Royal Academy of Music

Royal Archives
Archivist, Windsor Castle, Windsor, Berkshire SL4 1NJ
Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
Library and Information Service], Belgravia House, 62-64 Horseferry Road, London SW1P 2AF
Email library@rcvstrust.org.uk
Royal Military School of Music
Kneller Hall, Twickenham, Middlesex TW2 7DU
Royal Pharmaceutical Society
1 Lambeth High Street, London SE1 7JN
Saddlers’ Company (London)
Saddlers’ Hall, 40 Gutter Lane, London EC2V 6BR
Salters’ Company (London)
Salters’ Hall, 4 Fore Street, London EC2Y 5DE
Salvation Army Territorial Headquarters [see also William Booth Memorial Training College]
101 Newington Causeway, London SE1 6BN
Ship photographs Cliff Parsons, 6 Kathkin Avenue
Manchester M8 4QL
Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain
41 Clarence Street, Staines, Middlesex TW18 4SY
Society of Genealogists 14 Charterhouse Buildings, Goswell Road
London EC1M 7BA
Bookshop
Society of Nautical Research National Maritime Museum, Park Row, Greenwich,
London SE10 9NF
St. Bride Printing Library
Bride Lane, London EC4Y 8EE
Stationers’ Company (London)
Stationers’ Hall, London EC4M 7DD (see also St. Bride Printing Library)
Telephone books
Theatre Museum
1E Tavistock Street, Covent Garden, London WC2E 7PA
Theatrical Collection
Westminster Reference Library, 35 St. Martin’s Street, London WC2H 7HP
Thomas Cook Company Archives Thomas Cook Archives, The Thomas Cook Business Park,
Conings by Road, Petersborough
London PE3 8SB
Town Criers
The Ancient and Honourable Guild of Town Criers
Trade Union Records
Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick Library, Coventry CV4 7AL
University of
Newfoundland
Maritime Archives
Maritime History Archives, Memorial University of Newfoundland,
St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada A1C 5S7
Victoria and Albert Museum
Cromwell Road, South Kensington, London SW7 2RL
Waterways Trust The National Waterways Museum
Ellesmere Port, South Pier Road, Cheshire, CH65 4Fw
Email: waterwaystrust.co.uk antony.tiernan@the waterwaystrust.co.uk
Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine Library
183 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE Email:library@wellcome.ac.uk
Westminster Archives
City of Westminster Archives Centre], 10 St. Ann’s Street, London SW1P 2DE
William Booth Memorial Training College
Denmark Hill, London SE5 8BQ
Salvation Army
World Ship Society
Membership
WSS, 17 Birchdale Road, Appleton, Warrington Cheshire,WA4
5AR United Kingdom[3][4][5]

Occupation Resources and help pages on RootsChat Occupation Resources and help pages. (Free).

Family History Library Collection

Occupational histories, records, and related items are listed in the Place Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under:

ENGLAND - OCCUPATIONS

ENGLAND, [COUNTY] - OCCUPATIONS

ENGLAND, [COUNTY], [PARISH or CITY] - OCCUPATIONS

Related Wiki Articles

References

  1. Christensen, Penelope. "England Occupational Indexes for Finding Ancestors (National Institute)," The National Institute for Genealogical Studies (2012), https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/England_Occupational_Indexes_for_Finding_Ancestors_%28National_Institute%29.
  2. Christensen, Penelope. "England Indexes to Military and Service Organization Records for Family History (National Institute)," The National Institute for Genealogical Studies (2012), https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/England_Indexes_to_Military_and_Service_Organization_Records_for_Family_History_%28National_Institute%29.
  3. Christensen, Penelope. "England Useful Addresses for Occupational Organizations (National Institute)," The National Institute for Genealogical Studies (2012), https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/England_Useful_Addresses_for_Occupational_Organizations_(National_Institute).
  4. Christensen, Penelope. "England Useful Addresses for Military and Service Organizations A to P (National Institute)," The National Institute for Genealogical Studies (2012), https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/England_Useful_Addresses_for_Military_and_Service_Organizations_A_to_P_%28National_Institute%29.
  5. Christensen, Penelope. "England Useful Addresses for Military and Service Organizations P to Z (National Institute)" The National Institute for Genealogical Studies (2012), https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/England_Useful_Addresses_for_Military_and_Service_Organizations_P_to_Z_%28National_Institute%29.

 

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  • This page was last modified on 6 September 2014, at 02:49.
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