I have probably said this before, and it’s true. Every time I start a search on my mother’s side of the family tree, I find something of interest!
As I sit at my computer, building my tree into the past, I always seem to stumble upon a piece of information that is unique to that ancestor. It could be a simple word on a record that catches my attention. It could be an old photograph that another Ancestry.com member had scanned onto their computer.
My mother had told me that her grandfather had owned a pub, called The Hawk Inn, located in Halesworth. As I was trying to find out more about this business, I found a picture of it on Genuki. Under the Occupations tab, there is a listing of Public Houses, Inns, and Taverns. I honestly did not think I would find an actual picture of the building, but I was pleased that I discovered it.
As I moved down the line of my family tree, I started to wonder about my ancestors work life and how they made a living. The English census records always list a person’s occupation, and I used that as a starting point.
Many of my Suffolk ancestors were farmers and field laborers. On the coast, we had mariners and dock workers. It all depended on where they lived.
I also found that many families migrated to other parts of England due to economic changes. If a farmer could not sell his produce or animals for an adequate cost, many times they would move to more prosperous areas.
It may also be that a family would move north, where the father and sons would become miners in the coal fields. Or, maybe they traveled south where the parents would engage in the weaving and textile businesses.
Let’s not forget those in the trade industries. There were bricklayers, cordwainers (shoemakers), compositors (paper binding) and carpenters. Trade occupations paid better wages as these jobs were a necessity in the olden times. You could not go to your local store to purchase shoes or clothing back then. You had to have them made by hand.
Occupations in England were the same in other countries in that time in history. They may have had different names. Bricklayers in England were called stonemasons in the United States. Cordwainers were called shoemakers.
When you are building your family tree and find a “gem” that you can use, always make a point to add it to your ancestor’s profile. The Hawk Inn was my great-grandfather’s livelihood, but it was also a bonus to my family tree.
I know there are many occupations that I did not include in this article. Do you know of any unusual professions that your ancestors might have had in the past? If so, please use the Comments Section on this page. I would love to hear from you.