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Tuesday, 8 October 2013

A-Z of Earning A Living

Eagle-eyed readers of the new Discover Your History magazine (formerly Your Family History) will have spotted my new 5-part series on ancestors' occupations: the A-Z of Earning A Living.  I'm delving into some occupations which crop up in the Victorian censuses. Some trades like baking bread, dyeing cloth and making shoes date back to ancient times.

Guilds like the London Livery Companies were founded during the medieval period, and there's a free online database of apprentices and freemen where you can check for your ancestors' names.  Companies included at present are the Clothworkers, (1545-1908), Drapers (c.1400-1900), and the Mercers (1339-1900), with some data from the Goldsmiths' Company (1600-1700).

Thousands of children worked during Victorian times: they worked as domestic servants, on the land, in coal mines, factories, and in metal manufactures, to name just a few. Many were apprentices, compulsorily bound to a master by the parish authorities.

The age at which your ancestor began work depended on the date; the 1944 Education Act raised the school leaving age to fifteen (an earlier attempt was forestalled by WW2).

In the September issue of Discover Your History, I discussed agricultural labourers, bakers, cotton workers, dockers, dyers and engineers.  My feature in the new October issue explores the world of fishermen, gas workers, haberdashers, half-timers, hawkers, iron workers, jewellers and joiners.  You'll have to buy the magazine to find out more!

Images from the author's collection:
Carpenters and joiners at work. French engraving, c.1820.
Whitby fishermen, Punch, 23 September 1882.
Retorts at a Lancashire Gas Works. Lancashire Industrial & Commercial, 1935.

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