Education, Trades and Professions

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School education depended on income, opportunity and local circumstances. Compulsary from 1870s, only free from 1890s. Before 1944 c.80% attend school to 14. Various types included church / natonal and British / industrial and reformatory /poor law / ble coat, charity, voluntaray / endowed and grammar / private and public / Dame.

Grammar - classical subjects, to prepare for univeristy, funded by charity endowments / Public schools - secondary level for a fee, 'independent' of state system / 'white tile' refers to post war universities.

A directory to a town should have an introduction which lists schools.

Fragmentary and are in local archives or schools themselves. Include log books, admin and discahrge, punishment books, meeting minutes.

Look for community history and memories websites.

  • Ancestry - has London schools data 1848-1911 from the London Metro Archives. Has Alumni Oxonienses 1550-1886 and Alumni Cantabrigienses 1261-1900.
  • FMP has some schools outside London 1870-1914 and add to this over time.#
  • SoG has published school registers and magazines (many have the Alumni listed for Ancestry)
  • directories list schools and properties and headmasters eg: Pigotts
  • Oxbridge resources inc. alumni, uni calendars from c.1800, poll books, college registers, magazines and war memorials


The more mobile and less skilled jobs usually had less records.

Start with the census, note that:

  • 1801 third of population in agriculture and in rural communities / 12% servants
  • 1901 most in towns / 16: servants
  • 1950 2% servants
  • classifications were 1) agriculture 2) trade, manufacturing, handicrafts 3) other

Dictionary of occupational terms -

From 19th century may have unionised records. Trade unions kept registers of members and produced annual, half year and quarterly reports, all of which provide information regarding members / Warwick University Archive contains national records of trade unions and related organisations. Some records housed here are available on FMP / FMP has British Trade Unions Membership records

Trade directories - lists of tradesmen arranged in alphabetical order by surname and forename, showing trade and addresses / Kelly's / PO archive at Guildhall library. The PO Heritage website is good / Uni of Leicester collection online

Poll books will show occupations.

Professional lists

  • UK articles of Clerkshop 1756-1874 on Ancestry
  • Anglican clergy - / lists and directories / eccles. licenses / SoG has Fawcett index (card index)
  • State employment is at TNA eg: rail, mining, police

Apprentices: Beginning about twelfth or thirteenth century in London, apprenticeships became common throughout England. As it was a legal requirement to serve an apprenticeship before practicing a craft, many people completed an apprenticeship. Continued until the mid-nineteenth century.

Leather workers

Each leathercraft had its own trade guild, such as the saddlers, shoemakers, glove makers etc. Check with the records of the relevant guild.

Look out for the following terms, which are all kinds of shoemaker: Cobbler, bootmaker, Cordwainer, patten-maker, Clog maker, Clicker, Hand binder or boot binder.

The Northamptonshire Boot and Shoe website has extensive resources and links for researching shoemaking ancestors in the region.

By the 1790s, Bermondsey in london’s Southwark accounted for a third of leather production in the country. Read more on the British History website.

The West Midlands was another centre of leather trades. Read about saddlers in Walsall at The Story of Walsall website.

Textile mills

Trace your ancestor’s career through birth, marriage, and death certificates, as well as censuses. Note job titles given. Use the addresses to help locate the mills in which they worked on contemporary maps.

Use contemporary trade directories to identify mills in the area where your family lived.

Identify the archive or archives of the mill where your ancestor worked.

Although most mills have closed, or disappeared completely, some survive and can be visited.

For textile mill ancestors in Wales, see the website of the National Wool Museum.

Agricultural Labourers

Create a timeline with dates and addresses. Labourers were known to work away from home, particularly at notable times in the farming calendar, such as harvest. Check census residences against family addresses on records like birth/marriage/death certificates.

Check Museum of English rural Life collectons -

Check newspaper records and quarter sessions reports for your ancestors’ names, estate records (who owned the land and who worked it) and trade union records.

Use maps. taking note of the residence on your ancestor’s census entry, address from civil registration certificates, or tithe schedules and manorial records, plot exactly where your ancestor lived. Search around for further records relating to this location.

Game keeper - try 'London, England, Gamekeepers’ Licences, 1727-1839’ Collection on Ancestry.


Consult the website of The Company of Watermen and Lightermen of the River Thames. Contains tips and contacts for researching watermen ancestors.

The information recorded by the Company is the apprentice’s name, date bound (as an apprentice to the Company), place, master’s name and the date if/when he gained his freedom of the Company.

Check whether your apprentice watermen were mastered by a family member. This was common and, as such, it is possible to research generations of watermen within the same family.

Search occupational records of The Company of Watermen and Lightermen for the period 1688-2010 (including records from the Corporation of Trinity House, Thomas Doggett coat and badge race, and binding and reassignment records from The Company) on [at FMP].

Find out more about a waterman ancestor’s career by searching through the quarterage books held at London Metropolitan archives.

Coal Miners

Ese contemporary, local maps to identify what mines existed in your research area at a specific date. By 1850, there were around 3,000 coal mines in Britain and by 1900, there were more than a million miners. Miners often changed places of work throughout their career.

Coal-mining was one of the most dangerous occupations undertake. It is possible, if not likely, that a coal mining ancestor was involved in a colliery disaster in some way. Ancestry holds the uK, Coal Mining Accidents and Deaths Index, 1700-1950 previously online at The Coalmining history resource Centre.

Newspaper reports can help identify an individual miner, and provide further details on mining disasters, a colliery or useful information about mine owners. Welsh newspapers online

The Durham Mining Museum website has a wealth of information on its site, including lists of mines in the northern area, colliery maps, further reading and details of the varied occupations undertaken by miners.

Domestic servants

The African Stories in Hull and East Yorkshire project features a section on Black Servants in the area

Findmypast has an extensive royal household collection of employment records for servants of the British royal family. The records cover staff employed at royal residences across the UK between 1526-1924. The records fall into three main sections: royal household establishment lists, royal household index sheets and royal household payment and employment lists.

The ScotlandsPlaces website has an excellent resource of female servant tax rolls. These include an image and a transcription, and feature the full name and address of the employer as well as the names of all female servants employed, how many servants, and how many children were in the residence.

Search online newspapers for servants’ advertisements. This may be either servants seeking work, or situations vacant announcements from employers. If you have no luck searching with the name of either employer or servant, try searching with an address (where known).

Explore the National Trust’s online collections. They include photographs of servants, and some, such as governesses, may be named.


Ancestry holds two useful databases: England, United Grand Lodge of England Freemason Membership registers, 1751-1921 and Ireland, Grand Lodge of Freemasons of Ireland Membership registers, 1733-1923.

The Grand lodge of Treland Museum, library & archive.

The Museum of Freemasonry. Holds the archives of: the United Grand Lodge of England (including predecessor bodies); the Supreme Grand Chapter of England (including predecessor bodies); buildings and sites associated with the Grand Lodge; charitable bodies associated with Freemasonry; individual freemasons; and many lodges and chapters that are now closed.

The Genealogist has digitized Who’s Who in Freemasonry, 1913-1914.

[ Masonic Periodicals online] offers searchable digital copies of the major English Masonic publications held at the library and Museum of Freemasonry, london.

Railway employees

Identify which railway company your ancestor worked for. Draw up a timeline of known dates and places (e.g. taken from BMD certificates and census entries).

Not all relevant company records have survived. Where they have, it is important to establish where they are archived. Background research can be done at the National Railway Museum.

TNA holds an extensive collection of records relating to railway workers. See their online guide.

Some railway staff records (1833-1956) can be searched online by name at ancestry

If your railway worker ancestor was involved in an accident in Britain or Ireland from the late 1880s to 1939, take a look at the website for the Railway Work, life and Death project. This joint initiative between the University of Portsmouth, the National Railway Museum and the Modern Records Centre at the University of Warwick.

If you have railway ancestors who travelled to the Indian subcontinent, you may find records held at the [ British library]. Other useful resources are the Families in British India Society database and wiki.


"Education and state from 1833", 1997, Ann Morton.

British Records Ass. has some titles.

"My Ancestor Was an Apprentice", 2010, Stuart A. Raymond. (and other titles eg: London Occupations)

SoG library