‘Occupations of Our Ancestors’

The occupations of our ancestors are an important part of their stories, and can give us insight into their lives, values, and social status. Learning about the jobs our ancestors held can also provide context for understanding their experiences and the communities they lived in.

In this blog post, we will explore some of the common jobs held by our forebears, some old occupation terminology and the importance of researching the occupations of our ancestors.

Common Jobs of Our Ancestors

The jobs held by our ancestors varied widely depending on factors such as geography, time period, and social class. Here are some of the most common jobs held by our forebears:

1. Farmers: Agriculture was one of the most common occupations throughout history, and many of our ancestors were farmers.

2. Craftsmen: Many people in the past worked as skilled craftsmen, such as blacksmiths, weavers, and carpenters.

3. Laborers: Unskilled laborers performed a wide range of jobs, from factory work to mining and construction.

4. Merchants: Some of our ancestors were businesspeople who owned shops and traded goods.

5. Soldiers: Many men served in the military at various points in history, and their occupation can often be traced through military records.

6. Domestic servants: Women in particular often worked as domestic servants, performing tasks such as cleaning, cooking, and childcare.

Furthermore, discovering the occupations of our ancestors can be a rewarding and enlightening experience. It can help us to feel a greater sense of connection with our forebears, and to appreciate the hard work and sacrifices they made in order to build a better future for us.

If you’re researching your family history, you’ll likely come across various documents that mention your ancestors’ occupations. These documents can range from census records to birth and death certificates, and can provide valuable clues about your ancestors’ lives. Here is a list of common occupations found in documents about our ancestors:

1. Farmer

2. Weaver

3. Blacksmith

4. Carpenter

5. Shoemaker

6. Tailor

7. Laborer

8. Miner

9. Factory worker

10. Merchant

11. Doctor

12. Lawyer

13. Teacher

14. Minister

15. Soldier

16. Sailor

17. Domestic servant

18. Cook

19. Nurse

20. Seamstress

These are just some examples of the many different occupations that our ancestors held. The specific jobs held by your own forebears will depend on a number of factors, such as where they lived, their level of education, and the time period in which they lived. By researching your ancestors’ occupations, you can gain a better understanding of their lives and the communities they were a part of.

Old Terminology For Occupations Of Our Ancestors

In genealogy research, you may come across some old terminology for occupations that are no longer in use or are not as common today. These historical job titles can be fascinating to learn about and can provide valuable context to your family history. Here are some examples of old terminology for occupations that you may encounter in your research:

1. Chandler – a person who made or sold candles and sometimes soap.

2. Cooper – a person who made barrels and casks.

3. Farrier – a person who shod horses and cared for their hooves.

4. Fuller – a person who cleaned and processed raw wool.

5. Haberdasher – a person who sold clothing and small accessories.

6. Joiner – a person who built things out of wood, such as furniture or doors.

7. Miller – a person who ground grains into flour or meal.

8. Ostler – a person who cared for horses at an inn or stable.

9. Plowman – a person who tilled the land using a plow and oxen.

10. Scribe – a person who copied manuscripts by hand before the invention of printing presses.

11. Tinker – a person who traveled from place to place repairing household items such as pots and pans.

12. Turner – a person who worked with a lathe to make things such as wooden bowls or spindles.

13. Wheelwright – a person who built and repaired wooden wheels for carts and wagons.

14. Whitewasher – a person who painted walls and ceilings with a whitewash mixture of lime and water.

15. Yeoman – a person who owned and worked a small farm, often considered a member of the gentry.

These old terminology occupations provide a fascinating glimpse into the past and the specific roles people played in society. By understanding these historical job titles, you can gain a deeper appreciation for the challenges and opportunities that our ancestors faced in their daily lives.

Why is it important to understand about our ancestors occupations?

The occupations of our ancestors can tell us a lot about their lives. For example, their job could have influenced where they lived, the kinds of people they interacted with, and the opportunities available to them.

Understanding our ancestors’ occupations is important for several reasons. Here are a few:

1. Understanding their daily lives: Knowing what our ancestors did for work can help us imagine what their daily lives were like. We can better understand their routines, their working conditions, and the economic realities of their time.

2. Connecting with our heritage: Our ancestors’ occupations can help us connect with our cultural heritage. For example, if your ancestors were farmers, you might feel a special connection to the land and the agricultural traditions of your family.

3. Tracing family connections: Many occupations were passed down from generation to generation within families. By understanding your ancestors’ occupations, you may be able to trace family connections and identify patterns of work within your family tree.

4. Identifying clues for further research: Some occupations can provide valuable clues for further genealogical research. For example, military records may list a soldier’s occupation before they enlisted, which can help you track down more information about their civilian life.

5. Discovering unique stories: Some occupations, such as circus performers or ship captains, can provide unique and interesting stories about our ancestors. By researching their occupations, you may uncover unexpected and fascinating details about your family history.

Additionally, learning about our ancestors’ jobs can give us a better understanding of the historical context in which they lived. The types of jobs available in a particular area and time period can tell us about the local economy, social hierarchy, and prevailing attitudes about work.


Researching the occupations of our ancestors is an important part of understanding their lives and the historical context in which they lived. By learning about the jobs they held, we can gain insight into their experiences and the communities they were a part of.


Published by Darrell Gibbs

A father of three children and five grandchildren who retired in 2015 and began a career as a non-fiction writer in genealogy resource ebooks for new family historians. Aspiring towards the future as a Historical Fiction Author of his premier book "Wessex Reign".

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