Top free websites for learning about old trades & occupations

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07 July 2016
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tool-1314070_640-91403.jpg Old trades & occupations
Do you know what old occupations actually involved? These free websites should help!

On many of the old records that you will come across when researching your family tree you’re likely to find old occupations mentioned. Perhaps you’ve spotted your great-grandpa’s job on his marriage certificate, or in the census, or listed in a trade directory. But do you know what it means?

Many of the occupations that were familiar to our ancestors no longer exist, or if they do, perhaps they are known by another name. There are some really useful websites, however, that will help you decipher more precisely what it was that your ancestor did to earn their crust.

Rmhh.co.uk/occup – check out the Hall Genealogy Website for thousands of listings of bygone occupations. It makes for truly fascinating family history reading. From ‘Abactor’ (a cattle thief) to ‘Zoetrope maker’ (an optical image novelty), our ancestors found employment in numerous ways!

Histpop.org – for a studious approach to learning about old occupations study the Online Historical Population Reports. These are based on the census information over the years and provide statistical tables that give the numbers of people working in different occupations.

Gracesguide.co.uk – learn about old companies from the 117,000 pages of information about old companies and products and the people behind them. Fascinating reading, particularly if you know the name of the company your ancestor once worked for, but still very interesting to study for general information if not.

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Browsing these lists of old occupations will also help you when it comes to reading old handwriting. The style of our ancestors’ writing can be hard to read today, and if you’ve never heard the word before, it gets only more tricky. However, by familiarising yourself with the occupations from days gone by, when you come across that spidery writing on a document in the future, you’ll be much better equipped to start working out what it might mean.

Learning about your ancestors’ work, what their job entailed, how much training they needed, the dangers faced, skills required, and wage packet taken home at the end of the week, provides a fascinating journey back in time and one that really helps you to understand their lives that little bit more. Time to get to work and start searching!

Find out much more about the working lives of your ancestors with the August issue of Family Tree, on sale 6 July-2 August 2016. Adèle Emm picks out her top 30 FREE websites for researching old trades and occupations. Download the issue now, or subscribe and save.