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9 Places to Find Your Ancestor's Occupation

Find my past author
31 August 2016

One of the most rewarding aspects of genealogy is learning not only who existed in our family history and where they came from, but also learning about the story of their lives, learning how they actually experienced their world. It can be difficult to envision what life was like back in the 1700's or the 1800's, so any sorts of details that can help us connect with our ancestor's past make genealogy and family history that much more rewarding. There are many ways to search for your ancestor's occupation and for those of us lucky enough to have our ancestors listed in these various records, it can be a really fun search.

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Here are 9 of the many places to find your ancestor's occupation in the records:

There are specific records that highlight specific occupations, and these records are really great to explore because they can provide a great amount of detail about your ancestors! One of these types of records is apprentice records, which are great records because they state exactly what your ancestor did and if he/she was the master or apprentice and what the field was in! One example from the records is of an apprentice learning how to paint coaches back in 1759! Our occupation records include civil service, farming and agriculture, guild and trade associations, and more. Click here to explore our occupation records.

Census Records are an amazing resource and do provide more unique details about your ancestors over names and dates. The Census Records are one of my first go-to places for looking at my ancestor's occupations. It depends on when your ancestor lived, but if they're more recent ancestors and were living in the US between 1840-1940, I'd check the US Census Records first. After you're further back and know when your ancestor immigrated to the United States and where they emigrated from, then I'd check those countries' census records.

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TIP: If you don't see your ancestor's occupation listed on the transcription of the records, don't be discouraged! Always check the image of the record for more information, it's often included in the image, but just isn't transcribed.

Surnames can be derived from the occupation of your ancestor! Smith, for example, means blacksmith or metalworker! The last name Miller originates from someone who milled grains! Take these rules with a grain of salt and verify them in the records, but surnames can be an invaluable resource for your search!

Obituaries are a great place to look as they can often provide a little more description and detail about your ancestors and the lives they may have lived. Obituaries often include the deceased person's occupation as part of the description.

Sometimes you can find your ancestor's occupation on their tombstone, especially if they were part of an organization or were well-recognized in their field.

The WWI Draft Registration Cards are great for learning more about your ancestor's. The registration cards are very detailed and include general information like names and dates, they also include occupations and even physical descriptions! If you don't see your ancestor's occupation listed in the transcript of the document be sure to look at the image of the document, it's most likely included on the photo of the document. It's also a fun way to see your ancestor's signature!

One fun way to find your ancestor's occupation is through city directories. You might have to do a little bit of digging through the records to find your ancestors, but the city directories list residents and local businesses, so you might just see an ad for your great-great-great grandfather's shop in one!

Probate records are court-records created after the death of an individual. These records are from the court's decisions to divide up the estate of a deceased individual. These records are extremely helpful in genealogy because they provide unique details such as occupation, family members, and dates of death, etc.

Newspapers are an amazing resource for you to get to know your ancestors and to gain insight into their daily lives. If you're thinking that your ancestors aren't "newsworthy," you might be surprised! Often local papers recorded small town news and events such as guests visiting or town gossip! It's worth checking to see if you can learn anything about your ancestor's occupation in the papers.

These are just a few of the many records that you can use to get started searching for your ancestor's occupation or a great way for you to try to fill in those gaps you might be missing about your ancestor's history.

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