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How to Research Old Occupations

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    Last Updated: December 2nd, 2009

    Old Occupation

    Tracing ancestors can be difficult and one of the ways to find many of the male and some female ancestors is by their occupation. These occupations had different names other than the names of the same occupations as today. There were also other occupations that no longer exist. There are many old occupations and lists of these can be found in books in the library and on Internet websites that have genealogy information.

    These occupations, along with census reports can often help in locating the right ancestor even when they have a common name; this is because along with the names of family members the occupation was also listed on census reports.

    The names for many have not changed to a point where they cannot be figured out today, such as the accomptant, which is the present day accountant or the book keeper, which the name has not changed through the years. There was also the alchemist which was the medieval chemist and today is known as the chemist or pharmacist.

    The professions or names that no longer exist such as the alewife, and this was a woman that owned a tavern or during the past known as an alehouse. There were many of these professions, which ceased to exist due to the changes of daily life due to technology. One of these would be the “axel tree maker” who was the maker of axels for coaches and wagons and this person might also be referred to an axel tree turner.

    Even after retirement men would be referred to on census reports as gentlemen, or a retired farmer would be referred to as a gentleman farmer. There were also names that were used for the wives of some professions, like the “coster wife” this was the wife of a fruit seller or a female fruit seller. The male fruit seller was called a costermonger.

    The professions that are similar to some types of employment today are the “dog-whipper,” which was the person that chased dogs away from the village and is similar to the dog catcher of today. Then there was also the “dairyman” who either worked or owned a dairy farm.

    The currier of today was referred to as “cuhreur or cunreur” and the journalist today was called a “couranteer.” The “delver” is the ditch digger of today, and the “dog leach” of yesterday is the veterinarian today.

    These are only a few of the hundreds of professions and are a way of helping to locate the ancestor that would appear on a census report or found through other means to know what their profession was. This can give clues to the type of life they had and the one they made for their family.

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  1. #1
    kieria tekel jones
    February 9th, 2010 at 9:39 am

    i wonder if someone can see if im related to martin luther king jr cuz his sun when he was little looks identical to my little cousin ladavius

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  2. #2
    Gail rubin
    February 18th, 2011 at 11:27 pm

    My dad was in the ua army during the end of ww2 and was a doctor who graduated from univ of Tennessee, nashiville. His dad was a Rabbi in Poland . Any clues as to my heritage would be appreciated. All, Ashkenazi jews

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