Each individual researcher’s quest to understand their ancestor’s “life’s work” will have its own twists and turns. There is not one record or one repository that will give you all the answers. Before you begin your research using a specific record, have a general idea what might be found in that record.
For example: If you are working in county land records what type of information would you expect to find about a person’s occupation? Here are just a few examples:
- their stated occupation (i.e: blacksmith, yeoman, trader, etc).
- location of where they practiced this occupation (where they purchased or rented their land).
- location of where they last practiced their occupation (statement of a location other than the current county of residence).
- any partnerships or corporations.
- where they learned their trade.
- where they might have acquired their tools.
- any business difficulties, bankruptcy, sheriff sales, etc.
- did they buy and sell land repeatedly, possibly as a means of an income (land speculator).
A land record has more to tell than the description of the land, and names of the grantee/grantor. You must evaluate it with a critical eye.
Repositories are numerous and the following is a short list of repositories that you should be using:
- Family History Library and the local Family History Center
- Genealogy Libraries (Allen County Public Library; Midwest Genealogy Center; Sutro Library; DAR Library; Clayton Library)
- Local library and the interlibrary loan system
- National Archives and its regional branches
- Library of Congress
- State Libraries and Archives
- County Courthouses
- University Libraries
- Internet (not as a repository but for the vast amount of social histories and access to public and university library catalogs).
And where are you going to find an occupation listed in these repositories?Just about anywhere. The following is a list of record types that may be found in these repositories:
- census records
- vital records
- land records
- military records
- pension records
- naturalization records
- local histories
- biographical sketches
- church records
- company records
- social histories
At each repository, reference book, website or record the researcher will often be directed to another repository, reference book, website or record, that can offer more and different information. The clues, if not stated directly, are often found in the footnotes and bibliographical sections. These new sources can lead you deeper and deeper into a subject. As in all aspects of genealogical research it is important not to overlook a clue, resource or opportunity for more information.
To learn more about researching occupations in the United States, please consult our course, US: Occupational Records.