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Learning More About English Occupations

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series English: Occupations. Professions and Trades

By Shannon Bennett, Student

 

Parliament (c) 2014 Shannon Combs-Bennett. Used with permission.

Parliament (c) 2014 Shannon Combs-Bennett. Used with permission.

Many of my and my husband’s family come from England. Lots. Lots and lots. Did I say quite a few?  Well, needless to say I am intrigued by the records that are over there but at times I do not understand exactly what is being said. We sort of speak the same language.

I am sure some of you can relate. Even here in the US our words have evolved over time. For example I had an ancestor who was a paperhanger. What in the world did that mean?  After I researched it I learned he hung wallpaper (in addition to painting houses and odd stints as a carpenter).

It occurred to me that as I delved deeper into various records across the pond that I might come into more and more occupations that I didn’t quite understand, let alone understand the way the labor system was set up there. Thankfully there is a course I can take through The National Institute to help me learn all about this side of genealogy.

My next course is English: Occupations. Professions and Trades by Dr. Penelope Christensen.  I have to say it looks intriguing!  Looking over the syllabus it really looks like it is going to cover a wide range of information across a variety of fields. Most of our family ancestors were farmers or miners with a couple who were merchants or had a trade. While none of them were professionals, I think it will be interesting to learn that aspect as well since you never know when that type of information will come in handy in the future.

Fingers crossed it is not all modern, or 20th century, occupations. That would be okay for one of my husband’s lines, but I hope there is information about occupations and trades from the 1800s and before. Better yet, I hope there is information presented that might just cross over to the colonies. That would really make me ecstatic.

On that note I am off to start the first module. This course has me really excited and intrigued. Here’s to using it to understand my family heritage a bit better!

 

See you online!

 

An Apprentice in the Family

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series English: Occupations. Professions and Trades
Library With Books by Serge Bertasius Photography/ Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Library With Books by Serge Bertasius Photography/ Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

By Shannon Bennett, Student

In English: Occupations – Professions and Trades, Module 2  we jumped right in and learned quite a bit about the apprentice system in England. Wow, that was a lot of interesting, new, and eye opening information for me. I think I will continue to process it for a while.

I knew from history books that the apprentice system was complicated and long running but I really didn’t understand all the nuances that were involved.  Learning all the laws helped me understand what the changes were then and how they could affect what I found from a genealogical perspective.

In fact, I did not know that there were three kinds of apprenticeship: trade, poor, and charity. Each of those categories had different rules and regulations as well. Plus, depending on which your ancestor fell under could determine what information would be available to you and where you could find it. That’s right, nothing can be easy can it?!

What really struck me was the amount of potential genealogical information that is out there. If you knew that your ancestor worked an occupation that would require apprenticeship you could be in luck with the family knowledge you could uncover. It makes me want to go look a little harder for those papers that could be out there about my family!

For instance, if you had an ancestor who was a trade apprentice you could potentially learn the following information about them from register books:

  • Name and age of apprentice
  • Date of binding or presentment
  • Name of father, mother, or guardian
  • Place of origin
  • Term of the apprenticeship
  • Master’s name and address
  • The amount of the premium paid to the master
  • Amount of any fees or gifts due to the company
  • Records of any turnover to another master

Trade apprentices were interesting to me. They were kept by a corporation of cities or boroughs as well as companies. When these men finished their terms of apprenticeship they would then apply for freedom from these organizations which let them practice their trade in that town.

Sadly I learned that many apprentices died during their time under a master. Many more didn’t complete their apprenticeship due to other reasons. While child mortality was often high in past years, it seems that this was the reality for a majority of apprentices. However, even if they did not survive, the information would still be there for the family. Apprenticeship records could be a valuable resource while searching collateral lines.

On to the next modules. See you online!

The Professions

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series English: Occupations. Professions and Trades

By Shannon Bennett, Student

Passing Of Time by winnond/Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Passing Of Time by winnond/Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Modules 4-8 of English: Occupations–Professions and Trades covers a wide variety of different occupations, laws and rules associated with them, plus lots of little bits of information that I think I digested. Once again, I stuffed information in my head and hoped that the sponge took it all in. In the future I see using this course as a great reference book when I track down English ancestors!

Instead of doing an overview of the modules, I thought I would pick out a couple of occupations that I found interesting. I hope you do too because the instructor did an excellent job of presenting the information on each of them. Needless to say, it was hard to whittle it down to just a few to talk about.

Domestic Service

We know that from early days most women had responsibilities to the family and home. Yes, many did work side-by-side with their husbands or family members be it in stores or in the fields, but women’s work was defined by society.They were responsible for feeding and clothing the family in addition to any paid work they did outside of the home. Then with the Compulsory Education Acts of 1870 and 1880 women were better situated for different and better paying jobs, not just those of laundress, spinner, or cook.

Dr. Penelope Christensen tells us that in the 1851 census, “servant” was the second most common occupation, after agricultural laborer, in England. I was enthralled reading about the division of servants in a household (no, I have not watched Upstairs Downstairs or Downton Abbey, sorry) and how they were managed.

Clock and Watch Making

Do you know the original difference between a clock and a watch? I didn’t!  Originally a watch was defined as an object that showed the time. A clock on the other hand announced the time by striking a bell or another mechanism. When you think about it, it makes sense doesn’t it?

Clock and watch makers fell under the horology trade located mainly in Clerkenwell within London.  There were other makers who set-up shops in towns and cities that were important market towns which catered to the gentry class. I thought it was interesting to note that when clocks were first manufactured they fell under the Blacksmiths’ Company. Then when smaller clocks began to be produced they fell under the umbrella of locksmiths. It wasn’t until 1631 that clock and watch makers created their own company.

Professional Occupations

Okay, now this had my head going in loops. Reading this section reminded me that I could not look at the past through modern eyes. Dr. Christensen writes “during the 16th-18th centuries the term profession was used to denote any occupation by which one earned a living.”  Holy moly, that is not what I think of as “professional,” but then I have that darn modern idea of doctor, lawyer, businessman in my head.

This category of occupations did cover a number of what I would think of as professionals such as accountants, civil offices, medical trades, those in the law, and education. However, I was intrigued by the listing of unusual ones like: hangman, spy, and circus performer.

Needless to say there are a plethora of places to look, read, and investigate when it comes to occupations. Most can be traced through license applications, when they sat for exams, or even in trade publications. If you have a professional in your family you may need to research not only in private papers but also at local repositories. Looks like I may take a trip to England if that happens!

Well, off to take my exam.  See you online!

Finishing Up English Occupations

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series English: Occupations. Professions and Trades

By Shannon Bennett, Student

Anvil by Jeff Ratcliff. Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Anvil by Jeff Ratcliff. Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Well, I just finished English: Occupations-Professions and Trades and took the final. Wow, that was all around awesome, but definitely not for the faint of heart. I think I need a couple days to recover so it is a good thing that I have a few days before the next one starts!

This course really makes me wish I knew more about my UK ancestors. Jumping the pond has not been easy for me. Well, if I am completely honest it’s been nearly impossible. Why do my ancestors not want us to know where they came from?!

For those of you lucky enough to live there, or know more details about their ancestors, I can’t recommend this course enough. You should seriously consider taking it particularly if you have run into brick walls. It gives you great resources to check out for research as well as amazing information on social history and what different occupations were.

My most recent UK ancestor immigrated to the US in 1820. Before that it was a steady stream all the way back to the Mayflower. My husband on the other hand has a much closer ancestor. His great-grandmother and her family immigrated to New York from Ystradyfodwg, Glamorgan, Wales in 1882.

Even better, his mother shared stories with us that her grandmother told us about growing up there.  Elizabeth Pittard immigrated at the age of 14 and she had amazing stories about her father working in a coal mine. I paid particular attention to the section on miners and mining in the course because of this.  And yes, I now have a lot of homework ahead of me to discover what I can about him and his family.

Those of you simply interested in social history will not be disappointed either. Dr. Christensen, the course author,  takes the time to explain the history, needs, obstacles, and aspects of working life that effected our ancestors in their trades. That in and of itself is a fantastic reason to register. The historian in me found myself reading, enthralled, for hours at a time. Stopping to do the homework was almost a nuisance as I wanted to get back to reading!

Okay, on to the next course.  See you online!

Associations and Occupations

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series English: Occupations. Professions and Trades

By Shannon Bennett, Student

Do you ever read something and feel your head getting full? That feeling of “oh no, this is a lot of stuff, how am I ever going to remember it all?” Well, that’s the feeling I have right now after finishing the next section of the English: Occupation-Professions and Trades course.

Vinters Hall. Wikimedia Commons. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:VintersHall_2.jpg

Vinters Hall. Wikimedia Commons. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:VintersHall_2.jpg

This last week I learned more than I ever knew about associations. What are associations you ask?  Well, there were three main types we studied: guilds and livery companies, trade unions, and professional associations. I thought I knew what the last two were, but I was wrong. However, I didn’t know anything about guilds and livery companies.

I was really intrigued to learn about the livery companies of London. No, I don’t have ancestry from there (that I know of) and no, none of my ancestors were of those trades (once again, that I know of) but the history of those companies was simply fascinating.

Livery companies were guilds in the City of London known for their livery, or dress colors they wore, which represented the guild on state occasions. The members of the guild entitled to wear the colors were known as the “livery” opposed to the “freeman” who were waiting to be promoted to the livery as vacancies happened.  It is important to note that livery companies were not found outside of London.  These organizations in other cities or boroughs were known as guilds when located outside of the City.

We learned about other membership levels, how the guilds were structured, the way they evolved from medieval times to the 20th century, and what resources for research are key for genealogical research. It was dense reading but very interesting and very informative. Really makes me wish I knew more about my English ancestors so that I had an excuse to delve further into these records.

The next modules are going to cover details pertaining to specific types of occupations and where researchers could find information on them. I am looking forward to this. Social history is one of the interesting topics for me and since I am an American I am sure there will be things listed that I had no idea about.

See you online!

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