International Institute of Genealogical Studies


International Institute of Genealogical Studies - LEADERS IN ONLINE GENEALOGY EDUCATION

An Apprentice in the Family

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.

Library With Books by Serge Bertasius Photography/ Courtesy of

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!

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