3 free websites to research ancestors’ employment


04 February 2019
Ancestors'-occupations-33011.jpg What did your ancestor do for a living? There are lots of ways to find out
Finding out what our ancestors did for a living can really teach us about their everyday lives. Here are 3 free websites that can help you do just that.

What did your ancestor do for a living?

Content continues after advertisements

Many of the vital family history records that we use to reconstruct our ancestors’ genealogical relationships will often yield information on their occupations. Investigating what our ancestors did for a living can help to inform us of their world views, and to understand many of the decisions they took in life. The details gleaned can frequently include what they earned, where they chose to live, how they knew other people, and even what their political affiliations might have been, and many resources are available to help flesh out the stories.

Researching your ancestors’ employment & occupations

In the March 2019 issue of Family Tree genealogist Chris Paton delves into the enormous range of online and other resources to help your trace your ancestors’ employment history. He has picked over 50 great websites to boost your chances of search success, and below we have picked out 3 of our favourite free websites from his selection – which includes those who served in British military occupations, performers, professionals, miners, medics and more – to get you off to a flying start.

Useful websites

• Hall Genealogy Website’s Old Occupation Names 
Consult the pages on Hall Genealogy Website’s Old Occupation Names for helpful definitions of old occupations found on family history records such as birth, marriage and death certificates and the census.


ScotlandsPeople has a handy glossary of terms and abbreviations found in records, including occupations, that you can search or browse.


• The Maritime History Archive

We are an island nation so many of our coastal ancestors had maritime occupations. The Maritime History Archive – though based in Newfoundland, Canada – has lots of British resources including a crew agreements database for 1857-1942 and an online catalogue.


You might also be interested in these stories:

* Top five genealogy websites for beginners

3 free websites for researching your ancestors’ occupations


Other great places to look for employment information include newspaper archives, trade directories and the subscription genealogy sites, as well as The National Archives.


• You can find Chris Paton’s full guide to tracing your ancestors’ occupations, along with a guide to employment history, only in the March 2019 issue of Family Tree, available here.