Tobacco was Virginia's major cash crop. It was shipped to Europe and the Caribbean during colonial times. Before the Civil War, plantation owners relied on slave labor to produce their crops.
Many Virginia colonial settlers could not afford to pay the passage from Europe to America and labored without wages for a set number of years (usually four or five) once they arrived as indentured servants.
Identifying a Virginia ancestor's occupation
The occupations of Virginians are identified in a variety of sources. Takers of the 1820 U.S. Federal Census distinguished between residents who worked in agriculture, commerce, and manufacturing. From 1850 forward, census takers recorded occupations for each person they enumerated.
Gill identifies many Virginia colonists who served apprenticeships to learn specific trades, though the list is incomplete:
- Gill, Harold B. Apprentices of Virginia, 1623-1800. Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry Pub., 1989. FHL Book 975.5 U2g.
Inventions and Patents
A.J. Morrison identified patents by Virginians from 1805 to 1824:
- "Virginia Patents," The William and Mary Quarterly, 2nd Ser., Vol. 2, No. 3 (July 1922):149-156. Digital version at JSTOR - free.