Old Occupations Their Meanings and How To Find Them

Wondered about what your ancestors did for a living? You may however know the job title of these old occupations but you are perplexed.

Old Occupations Their Meanings

Just what do they exactly mean and what does the job entail?

Your ancestor’s job may not even exist today. So, finding out what they did can be a glimpse into the past for you.

This article will look at old occupations their meanings.

I will also help you to discover how you can find the definitions for these jobs as well.

Discussed in this post:

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Where To Find Your Ancestors Job?

Whenever we are researching our ancestors we will come across job titles in censuses, trade directories, or even official documents such as marriage and death certificates.

You may though be wondering what these jobs were as their names may seem quite foreign to you.

Do you even know what an ‘acater’ or an ‘alblastere’ did?

Or, how about a ‘hoggard’ or a  ‘lotter’?

Personally, after I had found my ancestors I then wanted to know more about them.

So, I would then check to see what their job was.

If it was a job title that I hadn’t even heard before then this naturally made me more curious.

It’s human nature after all isn’t it to know more about our ancestors?

Understand more about your ancestors!

And by doing this type of genealogy research we get to know more about their lives.

Also, to some extent, we get a better appreciation for them and what they went through to put bread on the table and feed their family.

By knowing our ancestor’s job title we can therefore try to find even more records about him or her.

This may be trade records or even historic newspaper articles. From all these records we will know more about them.

Credit:   Ancestry

We may even be able to find the training or certificates that our ancestors won while they tried to get promoted within their chosen field.

My own family story!

One of my ancestors was a coal miner. He worked his way up to become a supplier or rather distributor of coal.

So, in essence, you could say that he worked from the ground up, (slight joke there, lol).

If your ancestor was part of a guild or a union then there may be records out there about your ancestor.

Your ancestor may have needed qualifications to reach a certain level in his trade, so these records still may exist as well.

Guidebooks That Can Help You!

Within my family tree, there are the usual trades such as agricultural laborer, coal miner, railway worker and even some were in the British Army.

All of these job titles are quite self-explanatory. We all know what these jobs are about and to some extent what was involved in their daily duties.

My Ancestor Was An Agricultural Labourer

As a side note, there are resources available to you where you can find your working ancestors’ records.

I have written reviews on available books that can help you to track down these records. They cover the four jobs I have listed above and more besides.

Guidebooks to help trace your ancestors’ jobs

(Agricultural Laborer, Apprentice, The British Army, Coalminer, and Leather Worker

Railway Worker, The Royal Navy, In Service, Studio Photographer, and Thames Waterman

Lawyer, Royal Marine, Woman at War, and Worked In The Theatre)

This collection of books gives a brief introduction to the work of your ancestors. That’s great because you learn what their profession was all about.

This is then followed by showing what resources are available and also how you can find these work records of your ancestors.

Find Your Ancestors With The My Ancestor Was Series

Find Your Ancestors Now!

Why Find Out About Your Ancestor’s Job?

Finding these work records helps to bring your family history to life. If you are writing your family history as I did then you can add a little extract into your book about your ancestor’s job.

Shoemaker Cordwainer

Then you can show your readers, (your family), the records that you have found.

Writing my family history book!

I added a little bit to the start of my ancestor’s chapter where I looked at their job and described to the readers, (my family), what they did for a living.

I wanted my family to not only know where they came from, how many brothers and sisters they had, where they lived and worked, but also a little bit about their job.

By doing this it made me feel more connected to my ancestors, and I hope my family and siblings too.

They can then cherish what I have created and pass it on to their children.

My ancestors were cordwainers!

For example, I knew from my father that the family trade was a cordwainer.

What’s that you may be wondering?

Well, that was another word for a shoemaker, but no ordinary shoemaker. They worked with leather and made the shoes from start to finish.

They were a maker of shoes rather than a repairer, (cobbler).

By researching this job I learned so much about my ancestors and as a result appreciated them more.

Who knows, maybe those old family heirlooms lying around the house were once used by your ancestor for his or her work.

You won’t know though unless you start researching. By digging a little deeper you can put a story to each of those objects you have around your home.

Websites That Can Help You!

My main aim with this article was to show you where you can easily find definitions for these types of jobs. There are plenty more jobs out there that our ancestors could have done.

Google Search


And some of them I can imagine are quite obscure.

So, where do you find these I bet you are wondering?

You can do a Google search. This approach may be a bit hit and miss though.

You may find the more common jobs but other less-common jobs you may still be scratching your head with.

We, therefore, need a comprehensive source that will help us in our search.

Online Resources Available To You:

  • RootsWeb – This is a comprehensive A to Z guide on job definitions, all of which are conveniently listed on one page.
  • Hall Genealogy Website – Old Occupation Names – This site is UK-based so it will help you with definitions for the jobs of your British ancestors. You can find the job that you are looking for by using the A to Z menu at the top of the page.
  • Genealogy Quest – This is not as comprehensive as the last two options, but it does list some jobs that are missing from the first two sites. So if you cannot find what you are looking for in the first two sites then check this third one out.

My Final Thoughts

We can learn so much about our ancestors if we chose to dig a little deeper. By just exploring a little more we can truly tell our ancestor’s stories.

We can also pass on these stories to our children, and they can pass them on to their children.

How best to understand what our ancestors went through than to look at what they did for a living?

Have you researched what your ancestor did for a living?

If you then I would love to hear from you and learn what you have learned and how you discovered it.

I hope I have opened your eyes not only as to how to find these definitions, but also the benefits of doing so.

We all want to know who our ancestors were. And this type of work can further our genealogy research and understand our ancestors better.

Thank You and Please Leave A Comment

I hope you enjoyed this article about our ancestors’ old occupations their meanings and how to find them. If you have any questions or comments then please leave a comment below.

Please share with family and friends if you think this post will help others by using the social media buttons below.

Article Name
Old Occupations Meanings
Learn more about the occupation of your ancestors with this helpful guide. And how it can be important for your genealogy research.
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The Genealogy Guide
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12 thoughts on “Old Occupations Their Meanings and How To Find Them”

  1. I’m always interested in learning about history, how life was being lived way before our time. Even though it seems all black and white, could you imagine how much wars there must have been, mostly over food and territory. Anyway, the ancestry job search looks like a great place to start. I’m going to take a look right now and see what I can dig up. Thank you very much for this informative article!

    Kind regards,

    1. You’re quite welcome Brandon. It is interesting what life was like back then. It must have been quite different. But can you imagine what they would think of today. They would be so amazed and lost I would imagine in today’s world.

      One of my ancestors was very interested in photography. He would also do some trick photography. For example, there is a photo of himself cutting his own hair. He did this by double exposure. I bet at te time this was cutting edge technology. I wonder what he would think of today’s advancements.

  2. Great post Owain. I had to laugh at a lot of those words such as ‘hoggard’ etc..
    It’s not just that but occupations and such. I know what my grandfather’s did but that’s it. Nobody has a clue beyond that. Both immigrants after WW1 and all is lost before that. I love this whole subject of family history + genealogy. Thanks for providing it. really well done.

    1. Thanks Peter for your comment. When I was researching my family history I could say that they were coal miners, or blacksmiths. But I really didn’t know what was involved with any of these jobs. I had a bit of an idea but that was it. So it was interesting for me to dig a little deeper and understand my ancestors lives more.

  3. Hi Owain,
    This is great information. I have worked on my geneology on and off and this is another great resource that you provided here. Great job. Your site is very easy to navigate too. I will be back to delve deeper into these resources.

    1. Thanks Monika. There is plenty on this site that will help you with your genealogy research. I am glad that it is easy for you to navigate. That is one of my aims with this site.

      I want to help fellow historians. So keep checking back for more guides and tips, resources and reviews.

  4. Cool! I am currently involved in tracing my family and found that at the turn of the 20th century I had a relative (Irish) that was an iron worker. Thanks for providing references to learn about these old jobs. Please post more.

    Best wishes,

    1. Thanks for your comment Mike. That’s great that you have found such a connection. It really is nice to know where we came from. And satisfying when we have unearthed stones like this.

      With this post I wanted to give people not only guides to help find records but also definitions behind the more obscure ones.

  5. Hi Owain.
    Fascinating stuff.
    I would love to explore my family history and the few times I have begun this quest I recall coming across some obscure old jobs and trades.
    Are their any websites you’d recommend for starting a family search of my ancestry?
    Is online the best way to do this?
    I was told by my mum’s cousin that there was Jewish blood somewhere in our genealogy but my father says that this is not so.
    I’d like to know one way or the other!

    1. Thanks Chadd for your comments and suggestions. My Ten Step Guide can show you how to start on your family history journey.

      You can check out FamilySearch where you can find records of your ancestors for free. So that’s a great way to get your foot in the door so to speak.

      There are plenty of records available online, and there are more and more being added all the time. Ancestry is a great place to find many of these records. But a trip to your local family history society is also a great place where you can get local knowledge and help.

      My Find Jewish Genealogy Records review can help you trace your Jewish ancestors if they lived in the United Kingdom.

      All the best with your family history journey Chadd.


  6. Never knew you could find out the occupations of ancestry jobs like this. It’s so interesting and intriguing and it has really got my curiosity going.

    Thanks very much for the books suggestions. I will have to check them out!

    1. You’re most welcome. I have found that just delving more into history like this can be so rewarding. We get to see a little glimpse as to what life was like for our ancestors. Truly fascinating.

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