Were your ancestors wealthy doctors and dentists? Or did they scratch out a living as labourers and servants? Perhaps they helped to kick-start the Industrial Revolution, working on our nation’s railways?
Whether we like it or not, our jobs play a huge part in our lives, and it was the same for our ancestors. If you know what your great-grandfather did for a living, you can get a good idea of how he spent the vast majority of his waking hours.
Besides that, an occupation will suggest how well-off your relative was, and therefore imply the kind of luxuries, or otherwise, they might have enjoyed. Pinpoint a trade at a particular point in history, and you can even deduce whether your forebear was involved in crucial events, such as the 19th-century Luddite movement or the preparations for war a century later – all this from a single piece of information.
So how do you go about discovering a forebear’s job? It’s actually very easy, using our records. Census returns, birth, marriage and death certificates include occupations as matter of course. Then, if you want to discover more about a trade, we have a host of more specific collections to help you. You can find out more about all of these on our dedicated Occupations page.
Once you’ve uncovered all you can, take the time to read up on what the job entailed, either online or at your local library. It’ll help you gain a far greater understanding of your ancestors’ lives.
I’m keen to provide more help and advice on this blog. So it would be great to hear whether you find this kind of article helpful – and what else you’d like to see. Let me know in the comments below.