Welcome to the Ancestry Academy…

September is here and children all over the country are heading back to school. It’s the perfect time to dig out your pencil case and do some learning of your own – in the Ancestry Academy! Whether you’re a new starter or a top set whiz kid, this week’s lessons will help you develop your family history skills and make brand new discoveries.

Friday, First Period, Career Advice

Occupation records: Finding a job

Searching for your ancestors’ occupations is far easier than finding a job for yourself. There are no tedious forms or challenging interviews – you simply type in a few details and make sure you’re looking in the right places. You can then uncover the careers that shaped your forebears’ lives.

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New starters

We’ll show you how to discover your ancestors’ occupations – and see how their careers progressed – using censuses and county directories.

Our 2x great-uncle was named Abraham Terry, and we know he was born in Aston, Warwickshire in 1853. Let’s see what we can learn about his career.

  1. Too easy?

    1Start by searching our census records. Enter Abraham’s full name, with 1853 as his birth year and Aston, Warwickshire as the place, then click ‘Search’. You’ll see that the first four results all look correct. We’ll start with the 1901 Census, as it’s usually best to start with the more recent record. Click ‘View Image’, and you’ll find Abraham listed five entries down, living at 146 Victoria Road. His occupation is described as ‘stamper and piercer (brass)’ and he’s an employer.

  2. Too easy?

    2As Abraham was an employer, he probably had his own business. You can find family businesses listed in local directories, so turn now to City and County Directories, 1600s-1900s. Use Abraham’s name again, and we know he was in Aston, Warwickshire in 1901, so enter this information under ‘Any Event’. You can also add ‘stamper and piercer’ as keywords. The top match is from the 1900 Kelly’s Directory of Birmingham. Click on the result to see Abraham listed at 7 Great King Street, Hockley – obviously his business premises.

  3. Too easy?

    3Next to his entry, you’ll see the words ‘See advertisement’ – there’s an advert for Abraham’s business in this directory. It doesn’t tell us the page number, but adverts were generally at the back. So, in the top-right corner enter the last page number, 1163, next to ‘Image’. Then use the left arrow to move backwards until you find Abraham’s advert. It’s well worth the effort, as it gives us an incredible insight into our ancestor’s working life. We’re told that he specialised in hinges and made many other brass products – we can even see images.

  4. Too easy?

    4Directories also include lists of local residents – or at least the head of each household. Return to City and County Directories, 1600s-1900s. Do the same search again, but instead of his occupation use Abraham’s address, ‘146 Victoria’, as the keywords; don’t use the word ‘road’ as it’s too common. You’ll see that the third and fourth matches are correct, and from the same 1900 Kelly’s Directory. The third lists people by their address, like in a census, while the fourth has everybody in alphabetical order – useful for finding several family members in one town.

  5. Too easy?

    5Directories were generally made every one or two years, so you can follow changes in your ancestors’ careers through different editions. Try searching for Abraham again in City and County Directories, 1600s-1900s, but this time change the ‘Any Event’ year to 1899 and remove any keywords. You’ll find a number of entries in the 1899 Kelly’s Directory of Birmingham, with the same details as in 1900. This may not seem very revealing – but it tells you that Abraham was in Aston by 1899. You could keep working backwards and look for any changes.

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There was no Kelly’s Directory for Birmingham in 1898, so go back to 1897. Can you find Abraham in the directory for that year? You’ll find that he’s listed with a different occupation – what is it?

Note down the answer and keep it safe – you’ll be tested on your responses later today!



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