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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Top set

If you already have a basic idea of what your ancestors did for a living, you can learn far more about their working lives with our specialised occupation collections.

This time, our great-grandfather is named Charles James Rogers. We know he was born in Wolverhampton in 1883. Can we uncover his career?

  1. Too easy?

    1Start with the 1901 Census. He would have been 18 by then, and would probably be working. Use his full name, birthplace and year in your search. The first result is clearly the correct one. Click ‘View Image’ to see that Charles was still living in Wolverhampton with his mother, and his occupation was described as ‘Railway Clerk’.

  2. Too easy?

    2The turn of the century was an exciting time for railway workers, as new tracks and stations were springing up all over the country. Follow Charles’ career in these changing times in Railway Employment Records, 1833-1963. Search using his name, birth year and the fact he lived in Wolverhampton, Staffordshire. You’ll see a long list of results, and the first nine all look right. It looks like many of them were created on exactly the same date – but actually these records are organised according to when someone first joined the company, so they should all be labelled with the same date, whenever they were actually made.

  3. Too easy?

    3The records all come from Great Western Railway and were made at different points during Charles’ career. For example, click ‘View Image’ to see the first record. This shows his work up to February 1904. It reveals he joined on 24th April 1899 as a cleaner, switched to become a shunt fireman in 1903, and then took up the role of time and storekeeper in 1904. If you scroll down, there’s even a transcription of a letter to the head office asking for permission to transfer our great-grandfather.

  4. Too easy?

    4Go through the results, comparing them to see how Charles progressed. The clearest record is probably the fourth one down, from Stafford Road. This lists all of Charles’ positions – adding the role of Foreman’s Clerk to our list. Crucially, it also shows transfers around the country, revealing a spell in Chester before he returned to the Midlands in Tyseley. On the right it details every change in his pay, from three shillings in 1903 to 80 in 1918!

  5. Too easy?

    5Finally, check the comments sections on the far right of many of Charles’ records. You’ll see that many of them include the remark, ‘Guaranteed for £300’. This appears to be rare, as it doesn’t appear next to any of his colleagues. It means his life was insured to a sum equal to around £17,000 in today’s money. We don’t know who set up this policy – perhaps it was the single mother from the 1901 Census, eager to make sure Charles’ wife didn’t endure the same problems she had.

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Occupation records can reveal a great deal about your ancestors’ circumstances at different times in their life. Let’s say we know our great-grandfather Charles married in June 1907. Using his railway records, can you work out whereabouts he was working and how much he was paid at that time?

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



Monday's free period

Prize Draw 1

Family Tree Maker

Win 1 of 10 copies of our latest software

Be one of the first people to get your hands
on the new and improved version of our award-winning family history software. It comes complete with improved integration with your Ancestry.co.uk account, advanced charts and reports, interactive timelines and maps, and many more great new features.
We have ten copies ready to be won.

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Closing date 30th September

Tuesday’s free period

Prize Draw 2

WDYTYA? magazine

10 subscriptions up for grabs

Trace your family's past and discover your roots with Who Do You Think You Are? magazine. Brought to you by the team
behind BBC History Magazine, and the
official companion to the successful TV
series, WDYTYA? magazine's features
range from military to social history, telling
the stories of ordinary and extraordinary people and how they used to live. We have ten subscriptions to give away.

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Closing date 30th September

Wednesday’s free period

Prize Draw 3

Worldwide Memberships

Win 1 of 5 annual memberships

Our worldwide membership provides everything you need to trace your family history around the world. Scour the globe
with unlimited access to our entire library
of over 7 billion records, plus guaranteed access to all our new releases. We have
five annual memberships to give away.

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Closing date 30th September

Thursday’s free period

Prize Draw 4

National Trust passes

Win 1 of 50 pairs of tickets

We’re working with the National Trust to preserve our nation’s history, and help you uncover your family’s place in it. To
celebrate our partnership, we’re giving away 50 pairs of day passes to the National Trust property of your choice. Don’t miss the
chance to experience the history of Uppark, see the beauty of Fountains Abbey, or visit another of the Trust’s 350 properties.

Enter the prize draw

Closing date 30th September