Family tree - occupations
Life as a coalminer
Help if you are researching coalmining
When you begin researching your family tree you will probably find that branches of the tree follow the same occupation. Some would marry into other families of the same occupation as well. Back in time families lived near where they worked. The villages were full of people working at the same place. In the past this was the way it was. This can be so useful when tracing your tree, if you know where to look. Hopefully I can help with giving you what I have learnt and some links to sites that can inform you about your ancestor life. I have done a lot of research myself on coal miners and agricultural laborers which I have shared here. Also there is a link to the older names of our ancestors occupations .There are some very informative sites that will help you to understand your ancestors working life a lot more.
My mothers ancestors were coalminers, in fact, they seem to have a knack for digging holes. My granddad was a miner, then in his spare time a gardener. When he got to France in World War 2, He dug trenches. So he dug holes underground, in the ground, then through the ground. What he had against the ground I shall never know!
Coalmining was one of the most important occupations before and during the industrial revolution. Son followed father for generations down the mines. Villages and town soon grew around the pits. Often its worker endured terrible working conditions, while the mine owners grew rich and fat. Boys were used in thin seams where men could not go. Boys were used, for the most part as tuggers and pushers. Tubs of coal were pulled by boys who were harnessed to them. The harness was attached to the tub by a chain which went between the boys legs and attached to a hook on the tub An overseer compared the boys to horses whose necks were tender when first broken to the collar. Most of the boys said that it had once hurt them but that they were now fully fledged miners. Boys aged 10 and 11 were commonplace. It wasn’t until the Mines Act of 1842 that women and children under ten which banned from working in mines.
Though if your ancestor worked at the mines, they may have not been down the pit as several other industries grew up around mines.
Engine drivers were needed to drive the Tram hauling engine - an 'old fashioned steam engine' was used on the surface to haul trams (up to 8 at a time) up some of the steep underground inclines.
Saw Mills - men used saws to cut timber for propping up the roofs and walls and the Sawdust was used as bedding for the horses underground. Waste timber was used as firewood, old timber brought from underground is sawn and chopped and put into bundles and was sold by girls who hawked them in baskets from door to door.
Wicker basket workshop - the wicker baskets were fitted out very much like a sleigh with a 'smooth semi-circular steel arrangement'. The baskets were used by boys in seams which were too narrow for trams to enter. When full, each basket would contain 1cwt of coal
Smithy - attend to the steam engines which were many and used above and below ground, look after tram rails, making and sharpening the miner’s tools, make the cages and ironwork for the underground doors, etc.
Help researching Agricultural workers
- Tolpuddle Martyrs
The Tolpuddle Martyrs - their own amazing accounts in 'The Victims of Whiggery' and 'The Horrors of Transportation', written on their return from transportation.
On my fathers side of my tree there were two distinct branches, one was military the other agricultural laborers. So if it moved basically they shot it.
When searching the census you might find under occupation the words Ag Lab, this is short for agricultural worker. This title can cover many jobs, shepherds, fishermen, market gardeners, ploughman, game keep and many more. So you will have to delve deeper. The location your ancestor lived will help and so will a map of the area at the time your ancestor lived. Look to the local farm or country estates and see if they have any records on line. You might find mention of smaller tenant farmers in estate records, manorial documents and land tax records. The seasonal workers tend not to leave many traces in records, other than census returns, At the busy times of the year casual labour was employed particularly at hay and corn harvest and on threshing days they and had no guarantee on a job if the farm fell on hard times. Negotiation of wages varied. Casual workers hired at fairs slept in out buildings. The day began at 4 -5 am getting the horses ready it was a hard life and many, when they became old or to ill to work ended up in the workhouse, or asking the parish for poor relief. It was due to the harsh lives of agricultural workers that 6 men from Tolpuddle in Devon tried to form a trade union to help improve their working conditions.
Help with rearching the cloth industry
- Cotton Trade
The Cotton Trade and Mill Workers gives information on how it was in the 19th century, and covers, the number of workers in the industry, children in the cotton mills, also some history of the Lancashire Cotton Industry.
Ancestors in the cloth industries
There were so many job titles linked in some way to the cloth industry. I remember feeling I’d found something special when an ancestor of mine was listed as a fuller. ‘A fuller,’ I thought. I had convinced myself it was something to do with brewing. Wrong! After scouring the web I found this definition- One who "fulls" cloth; the process of cleaning (removing the natural oils and lanolin) wool in preparation for spinning and weaving, using fuller's earth. In medieval times, this involved treading the cloth in stale urine for some 8 hours. Great, still if I had looked at where this relative lived, by a river dotted with mills I could have saved myself hours of searching. This is when using Google earth can save time.
Besides the Fuller here are some of the other occupations linked to cloth and clothes making you might come across in your research.
Hatcheler.... One who combed out or carded flax
Kempster .... Wool comber
Lederer .... Leather maker
Schumacker .... Shoemaker
Slopseller .... Seller of ready-made clothes in a slop shop
Snobscat/Snob .... One who repaired shoes
Sorter .... Tailor
Tanner .... One who tans (cures) animal hides into leather
Tucker .... Cleaner of cloth goods
Webster .... Operator of looms
Whitster .... Bleacher of cloth
Help with the brewing industies
- British Pub Signs - a history of pub names in Britain
A short history of popular pub names and their signs in Britain. Part of the English History guide at Britain Express.
- Bristol's Lost Pubs
A record of Bristol's public houses and publicans from the mid eighteenth century to the mid twentieth century
- The Lost Pubs Project
History of the public house
Help with old occupations
The publican in the past
In olden times the public house was literally that, a house that the public used. Most of our ancestors were poor, so the public house was used by the local community to gather and save lighting and heating their own homes. Everything happened in the public house. The post was distributed from there, friendly societies set up, autopsy could be preformed, courts held there by travelling judges and even hangings. The community could also show it’s allegiances by the signs they displayed outside their public houses. Most public houses had a blacksmith attached and stables. So if you have a publican in the family there should be some record of where the pub was. If it no longer exists then the links below will help you track it down. Of course a host of other occupations were linked to the public house and the brewing industry.
ALE-CONNER / ALE FOUNDER - official who tested quality and measure of ale served in public houses
ALE DRAPER - seller of ale
TASTER - tested ale and beer for quality forerunner of the Inspector for Weights & Measures
ALE TUNNER - employed by the brewery to fill ale casks with ale
ALEWIFE - woman who keeps an alehouse or tavern
BLUFFER - innkeeper or landlord of a pub
CELLARMAN - looked after the beer, wines and spirits in public houses
CONNER - inspector or tester
COOPER or CUPER - maker of barrels
ENDHOLDERNN - inn keeper
GANNEKER - tavern keeper
HOSTELLER – innkeeper
HUSH SHOP KEEPER - brewed and sold beer without a license
PIPER – innkeeper
RECTIFIER - one who distilled alcoholic spirits
SKINKER - tapster in an ale house
TAPLEY - One who puts the tap in an ale cask
TAPSTER - bartender or barmaid
TAVERNER – innkeeper
TIPPLER - kept an ale house
TUBBER - one who made tubs and barrels
VINTAGER / VINEROON - grape farmer, wine maker
VINTNER / VINTER - wine merchant