UK and Ireland: Occupations



Full text of A Dictionary of Occupational Terms Based on the Classification of Occupations used in the Census of Population [for Great Britain], 1921 - "by far the most comprehensive dictionary of British occupations, with almost 30,000 terms".

Hurley, Beryl, (Ed.). The Book of Trades: Or Library of Useful Arts: Vol 1, Devizes, Wiltshire, Wiltshire Family History Society (1991) 63 pp. [ISBN 0951225340]
[FFHS GENFair: "Reproduction of 'job descriptions' giving fascinating descriptions of the many labour- intensive occupations and crafts of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Taken from the original 1811 edition, with numerous hand-engraved illustrations. This volume looks at the work of Apothecaries, Bakers, Basket Makers, Bricklayers, Carpenters, Coach Makers, Comb Makers, Coopers, Curriers, Dyers, Feather Workers, Gardeners, Gold Beaters, Hair Dressers, Hat Makers, Jewellers, Lace Makers, Mariners, Milliners, Plumbers, Potters, Sawyers, Shipwrights, Smiths, Spinners, Stone Masons, Straw Hat Makers, Soap Boilers, Tallow Chandlers, Type Founders, Watermen, and Wool Combers"]
Hurley, Beryl, (Ed.). The Book of Trades: Or Library of Useful Arts: Vol 2, Devizes, Wiltshire, Wiltshire Family History Society (1992) 63 pp. [ISBN 0951225359]
[FFHS GENFair: "Reproduction of 'job descriptions' giving fascinating descriptions of the many labour- intensive occupations and crafts of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Taken from the original 1811 edition, with numerous hand-engraved illustrations. This volume covers Bookbinders, Braziers, Brewers, Brick Makers, Brush Makers, Button Makers, Cabinet Makers, Calico-Printers, Carpet Weavers, Copper-Plate Printers, Cork Cutters, Cutters, Engravers, Glass Blowers, Iron Founders, Ladies' Dress Makers, Merchants, Needle Makers, Painters, Paper Makers, Paviours, Pin Makers, Printers, Rope Makers, Saddlers, Shoe Makers, Statuaries, Stocking Weavers, Tailors, Tin-Plate Workers, Trunk Makers, Turners, Watch Makers, Weavers, Wheelwrights, and Wire Drawers."]
Hurley, Beryl, (Ed.). The Book of Trades: Or Library of Useful Arts: Vol 3, Devizes, Wiltshire, Wiltshire Family History Society (1994) 52 pp. [ISBN 1898714029]
[FFHS GENFair: "Reproduction of 'job descriptions' giving fascinating descriptions of the many labour- intensive occupations and crafts of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Taken from the 1818 edition, with numerous hand-engraved illustrations. This volume looks at Attorneys, Bleachers, Booksellers, Chemists & Druggists, Confectioners, Distillers, Gun Makers, Linen Drapers, Looking-Glass Makers, Machinists, Musical Instrument Makers, Opticians, Pewterers and Tanners."]
Raymond, Stuart A. Occupational sources for genealogists: a bibliography, Birmingham, Federation of Family History Societies (1996) 81 pp. [ISBN: 1860060366]
[FFHS GENFair: "Were your English ancestors railwaymen or tradesmen, lawyers or tax inspectors? Or perhaps you have pipemakers or policemen amongst your forebears? It is probable that at least some members of your family are listed somewhere by the occupation they pursued, and it is well worth knowing where such information is to be found. There are many published sources of occupational information, which are listed in the second, greatly expanded, edition of this extensive guide to published works."]
Shepheard, Wayne. The History of Old Occupations. Family Tree Magazine (March 2019) pp.12-19. "[Investigation of] the history of occupations, key sources, and the cultural and climatic background against which the times played out . . ." 
Waters, Colin and Titford, John. A Dictionary of Old Trades, Titles and Occupations, Countryside Books (2002) 302 pp. [ISBN 1 85306 601 X] ["This excellent reference book explains the meaning of nearly 4,000 terms and contains over 70 illustrations."]



Armstrong, A. Farmworkers: A Social and Economic History 1770-1980, Batsford (1988).
Fussell, G.E and Fussell, K.R. The English Countrywoman: From Tudor Times to the Victorian Age, Blomsbury Books (1985).
Hammond, J.L. and Hammond, Barbara. The Village Labourer, 1760-1832, Sutton Publishing (1987) 432 pp. [ISBN: 0862993458]
[John Woodgate: "The Village Labourer focuses specifically on the life of the poor in rural districts during the period 1760 - 1832. It illustrates in detail what was happening to this section of the working classes under a government in which they had no share. Opening with a chapter describing the concentration of power, the authors go on to explain the common-field system and village class structure which set the scence for what must be considered the most important social and economic event of the periof - enclosure. Subsequent chapters examine its inception, implementation and effects. the book concludes with a picture of the village labourer's plight in 1795, together with a discussion of the remedies which were proposed but not adopted. Desite the importance which is placed on enclosure, there is a full consideration of other contributory factors, making this a valuable introduction to an understanding of the lives and fortunes of a class that had no voice in its own destiny."]
Waller, Ian. My Ancestor was an Agricultural Labourer, Society of Genealogists (2010). [ISBN: 9781903462980]



  • Though aimed principally at providing art and antique auction data, The Invaluable Group's Artists Database (archived copy) provides a searchable index to information, in some cases extensive, about "500,000 international artists". (And the facility for searching on objects can be used to look for placename information.)




Canal People

Church Officials

P. Towey. My Ancestor was an Anglican Clergyman. Society of Genealogists (2006).
  • The Clergy of The Church of England database - "Its objective is to create a relational database documenting the careers of all Church of England clergymen between 1540 and 1835."
  • Crockford's Clerical Directory - "first published in 1858, contains biographies of over 25,000 Anglican clergy in the UK, details of English, Welsh and Irish benefices and churches and much more. This online version carries information that goes right back to 1968." (Paid subscription required.)
  • SOAS - sources for missionary and church archives.
  • Steve Pickthall's Parish Clerk Index, derived initially mainly from the book "The Parish Clerk", by PH Ditchfield (Metheun, London, 1907).


Frank, M. and Brownstone, David M. Clothiers (A Volume in the Work Throughout History Series), Facts on File Publications (1987). [ISBN 0-8160-1442-6] [Covers: Cloth Finishers, Fiber Workers, Hatters, Milliners, Shoemakers & Other Leatherworkers, Spinners, Tailors & Dressmakers and Weavers]

Court Officials


We all have the occasional "black-sheep" in our families. This publication may help us to document their careers:-
D.T. Hawkins. Criminal Ancestors: A Guide to Historical Crime Records in England and Wales. Stroud, Alan Sutton, 1992, 458 pp. ISBN 0 86299 817 4.

Customs, Excise, Coastguard


  • The General Dental Council hold registration records which show the original application, list of addresses, correspondence, etc going back to the compulsory registration in the 1920s.


Wallis, P.J., Wallis, R.V., Whittet, T.D. and Burnby, J.G.L. Eighteenth Century Medics (subscriptions, licences, apprencticeships), Newcastle upon Tyne, Project for Historical Biobibliography (1988).
[An alphabetical index of individuals, compiled from a number of sources, including National Archives apprenticeship records, subscriptions to the publication of medical treatises, alumni of UK medical schools for the 18thC and some membership lists of the medical Royal Colleges.]


  • The records of the Steam Engine Maker's Society are a unique source, providing detailed information about many aspects of individual lives from 1835 to the First World War; details concerning unemployment, sickness, aging and migration which are available from no other source.

Inns, Hotels and Pubs

Fowler, Simon. Researching Brewery and Publican Ancestors, Birmingham, Federation of Family History Societ es (2003) 48 pp.
[FFHS GENFair: "This booklet is an attempt to help people who discover that they have innkeepers or brewers in their family. The first section is a brief survey about the changing nature of brewing, the public and the people who worked there. The second part offers advice about the records and where you can find them. There is also a glossary of terms you may come across in the course of your research, a short bibliography and list of relevant web sites."]
Gibson, Jeremy. Victualler's Licenses - Records for Family and Local Historians, Federation of Family History Societie (2009) 64pp., [ISBN-13: 978-1906280147] 




Watts, Christopher and Watts, Michael. My Ancestor was a Merchant Seaman, London, Society of Genealogists (2004) 84 pp. [ISBN 1-903462-51-7]
["The new and heavily revised edition is some two thirds bigger than the first edition and is sure to become one of the 'bibles' for family historians wanting to research ancient mariners. Packed full of places to search and the records that can be found in such record offices and archives, full listings of the same, their class and piece numbers, what to look for and where to find little known records."]



  • The Mills Archive has large databases on mills, and on the people associated with them.


Tonks, David. My Ancestor Was a Coalminer, Society of Genealogists Enterprises Ltd (2003) 136 pp. [ISBN: 1903462711]
["This book addresses documentary evidence to be found on miners and mining and where to go for further research. A must-have book for anyone researching an ancestor who was a coalminer in Great Britiain."]


  • SOAS - sources for missionary and church archives.




Hudson, Bryony. Tracing People and Premises in Pharmacy, Genealogists' Magazine, vol. 28, no. 6, (2005) pp.242-246.



Hollick, Helen. Pirates: Truth and Tales. Amberley Publishing (2017) 328pp. [ISBN-13: 978-1445652153].


Sherman, Antony. My Ancestor was a Policeman, London, Society of Genealogists (2000) 44 pp. [ISBN: 1903462002] ["This work comprises a short history of the police in Britain, the types of record available and a comprehensive directory of the sources of British police force records."]
Stallion, Martin and David S Wall. The British Police: Police Forces and Chief Officers 1829 – 2000. Police History Society (1999) 262pp. [ISBN 0-9512538-4-0].

Postal workers


Richards, Tom. Was Your Grandfather a Railwayman? (4th ed.), Birmingham, Federation of Family History Societies (2002) 132 pp. [ISBN: 1860061613] - [FFHS GENFair: "This expanded edition of the guide includes a comprehensive listing of records and documents for railway companies in Great Britain and overseas, showing what information they contain and where they can be found. There is also a detailled introduction to the railways and the records they generated, a guide to ordering records at the Public Record Office, and details of railway memorials in the UK and Ireland."]
  • Hardy, Frank. My Ancestor was a Railway Worker. Society of Genealogists Enterprises Ltd (2009), 110pp., [ISBN 9781907199028]
  • Drummond, Di. Tracing Your Railway Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians. Pen & Sword (2010) 288pp. [ISBN-13 : 978-1844158645]
  • Industry: the Industrial Revolution and the Railway System presents a wide variety of information on the 19th century railway system.
  • Railway Index - The names of railwaymen of all classes and companies (archived copy).
  • Railway & Canal Historical Society - web-site.
  • Railway work, life and death - "details of railway worker accidents investigated by the state (1911-15) & applications to the Great Eastern Railway Benevolent Fund (1913-23), for assistance after an accident".
  • The Railway Work, Life and Death Project - a collaboration between the University of Portsmouth, the National Railway Museum, and the Modern Records Centre at the University of Warwick about railway worker accidents in Britain and Ireland from the late 1880s to 1939.


Symes, Ruth A. A Governess in the Family, Family Tree Magazine, vol. 23, no. 6, (2007) pp.18-22.
The Georgian Papers Online project is a fascinating insight into the Royal Household in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and provides access to descriptions and digital images of letters, diaries, account books and household records and receipts. And via Findmypast you can search more than 386,000 employment records, which include staff at royal residences across the UK between 1526 and 1924. The database is drawn from a number of different types of document, but records usually include dates of employment, salary and career history.


  • Legacies of British Slave-Ownership - a database containing the identity of all slave-owners in the British Caribbean at the time slavery ended.


  • Stonemasons & Quarrymen - information provided by the Modern Records Centre, Warwick University Library. (They have put online the first part of an index to the obituaries of stonemasons included in the Fortnightly Returns of the Operative Society of Masons, Quarrymen and Allied Trades of England and Wales. This currently (as of Aug 2010) covers 1836-1875.)

Sugar Refiners & Sugarbakers

  • Sugar Refiners & Sugarbakers - "a database of some of those involved in the cane sugar refining industry, mainly in the UK, 16-20C" compiled by Bryan Mawer.

Theatre, Circus, etc.

Trade Unions

Travellers, Gypsies, Pedlars, etc.

  • The National Fairground Archive - "a unique collection of photographic, printed, manuscript and audiovisual material".
  • British Fairground Ancestors - Showmen, Circus and Fairground Travellers 
  • Gary Stanley's Romani website - "a heritage project dedicated to finding, tracking and recording any mention of Romany Gypsy families and individuals between the years 1500-1900, in the United Kingdom & United States of America".
  • The Romany and Traveller Family History Society website.