Most of our ancestors were the "Salt of the Earth" types: agricultural labourers, shepherds, fishermen, market gardeners, higglers and the lot. In many cases, they left no employment records. But sometimes we find one who had a particular skill, training or calling that caused them to be recorded on a roll somewhere. This page is for those individuals.

If your ancestor was an agricultural labourer, you may want to read "Captain Swing," by Eric Hobsbawm and George Rude, first published in 1969. It researches the riots among agricultural workers circa 1830 and is considered one of the definitive works on the history of the working poor in England.

General Resources

  • Another resource is at Hall Genealogy Website.
  • Always give the Public Record Office search engine a try. Enter an occupation and see what they have on file.
  • The Lincolnshire Family History Society has published the "Lincolnshire Masters & Apprentices: Transcription of the Inland Revenue Apprenticeship Registers at the PRO, Lincolnshire entries. 1711-1810", available via credit card from the Federation of Family History Societies Bookstore.
  • A book that may define and explain some of the terminology used in various occupations is, "The Local Historian's Encyclopedia," by John Richardson, ISBN 0 9503656 0 2. Last known price: £4.95.
  • You might also try, "A Dictionary of Old Trades, Titles and Occupations," by Colin Waters, ISBN 1 85306 794 6..
  • This site is "Under Constructions," but you might find it a good resource: List of Old Occupations.

Specific Occupations

  • If your ancestor was an "Ag. Lab." or Agricultural Labourer, then he or she was the salt of the earth. Many people hired out each year at an annual hiring fair (held in the larger towns) to contract for wages and housing. Some were rehired by the same farmer for many years and others moved from place to place until they found a good fit. Some AgLabs worked inside, but most were field workers or tended to the farm animals. There doesn't appear to be any records of AgLabs prior to 1631, but some hiring fair lists after that date were kept and can be found in the Lincolnshire Archives.
  • If your ancestor was a Blacksmith, check Ann SPIRO's List of Lincolnshire Blacksmiths.
  • If your ancestor was a clergyman, check Crockford's List of clergy. Another place to look is in the Indexes of Alumni for Cambridge and Oxford. John Elmes
  • There is also an online list of Church of England clergy. The list is being expanded as this entry is added (17 April 2007), but is worth checking. Go to The Clergy Database.
  • If you ancestor was a farmer (not just an agricultural labourer or Ag. lab.) around 1563 he might be listed in our Fenland Farmer list of 1563. [Michael Edgoose]
  • A "Cottager" was a person, usually a man, who leased a small plot of land with a cottage on it. The land was usually worked like a family vegetable plot and may have had a pen for a pig or a couple of sheep. Some cottagers did well with their garden plots and became "Market Gardeners", selling extra produce on market days. Others may have progressed to being regular farmers. Most land was owned by large landowners and small plots or farms rarely came up for sale. Land tended to be passed on within the families.
  • Lincolnshire's long coastline and river systems provided lots of work to Fishermen. Grimsby was, for many centuries, the country's largest fishing port. If your ancestor was a Grimsby fisherman or trawlerman, contact the Grimsby Archives to see what assistance they can provide. See also the Grimsby Trawlerman F.A.Q..
  • Another source for fishermen is the Trues Yard Museum in Kings Lynn as they have records from the fisheries authorities. Kings Lynn covered up north to the Boston Area.
  • Don't overlook the Port of Hull Society Sailors Orphan Home which is still in existance on the same site in Cottingham Road today. It has changed its name and is now known as the "Sailors Families Society". Contact: Sailors Families Society, Newland, Cottingham Road, Hull, East Yorkshire, HU6 7RJ, UK. Their phone number is: 01482 342331
  • Don't forget to check the Maritime Memorials web site for your sea-faring kin.
  • Was your ancestor a teacher or school headmaster / headmistress? Comb our Schoolteacher list.
  • If your ancestor was a Lighthouse Keeper, Genuki has some tips at Lighthouses and Keepers.
  • If your ancestor was a Mariner, here are some tips on tracing mariners in British records.
  • Mariner questions can also be posted to the Mariners Mailing List hosted at Rootsweb. Just enter the word "subscribe", without the quotes, in the body of your e-mail.
  • We also have a new list of Military Men and their spouses or children born in Lincolnshire.
  • If an ancestor is listed as a "Neatherd", he herded cows.
  • Nurses were in big demand, often providing homecare for the aged and disabled. Up until 1919 anyone could call themselves a Nurse. Putting "Nurse SMS" (Subsidiary Medical Services, i.e. anyone other than a properly qualified medical doctor) on a census form would have been an attempt to indicate that one was properly experienced and employed and not just the woman-up-the-road-who "did". [Rachel Sanerivi]
  • Don't forget to check out the Police History page at GENUKI.
  • If your ancestor was a politician around 1909, well, we won't tell anyone. But you might find them listed in "The Parliamentary Gazette, No 16, December 1909", published by Howarth & Co., 117, Helix Road, Brixton Hill, S.W. and sold by Wyman & Sons, Ltd., 32, Abingdon St., Westminster, S.W. and Fetter Lane, Fleet St., E.C. It contains alphabetical list of constituencies and Members of the House of Commons, giving the population, number of electors and majority in each constituency, Division lobby records, list of members of the House of Lords... and other valuable information, compiled from official sources by Parliamentary Journalists. Price: Two Shillings (in 1909). Check major libraries for copies.
  • If your ancestor worked as a Post Office employee, try the Family history of Post Office employees site. Or visit the British Postal Museum & Archive (BPMA) - Freeling House Phoenix Place - LONDON WC1X 0DL - Tele: 020 7239 2570.
  • If your ancestor was a Prisoner (not an occupation, I hope!), try David T. Hawkings' book, "Criminal Ancestors", ISBN 0-7509-1084-4.
  • Convict ancestors from Lincolnshire are indexed on the Lincolnshire Archives site.
  • Some county Archive Offices have court records, but most have now been sent to London. [Claire March]
  • We also have a name index to Crime and Criminals in Victorian Lincolnshire, provided by Michael Edgoose.
  • If your ancestor worked for the Railways, you might want to check out the 82 Railways staff records at the Public Record Office.
  • There is also a Railway Workers at the NA site you should explore.
  • The Railways (or Railroads as they are known in some other countries) brought dramatic changes to Lincolnshire. See our text file of Lincolnshire Railway odds and ends. It may give you insight to some research ideas.
  • For more on railway current events, visit the Railtrack website. Railtrack's core business is maintaining and renewing Britain's railways. History buffs might enjoy Mike's Rail History, set circa 1935, and certainly should look at Britain's railway history. Other sites to check include AddAll and National Railway Museum, whose collection is Britain's largest single body of historic railway material. A good reference book on the topic is "Oxford Companion to British Railway History: From 1603 to the 1990s", Simmons, Jack; Biddle, Gordon (Eds), publisher: Oxford University Press.
  • There were many steam and narrow gauge railways throughout Britain, some of which are still in operation. Find out more at the My Britain Historic Railways website.
  • For the true railroad nostalgia buff, there's still the Queen of Scots touring train.
  • If your ancestor was in the Salvation Army, the Society of Genealogists publish a booklet 'My Ancestors Were in the Salvation Army', which has a lot of useful information. You can also contact The Salvation Army International Heritage Centre, 101 Queen Victoria Street, London, EC4P 4EP, UK, who may be able to help. Their e-mail is Heritage Centre.
  • If your ancestor was a Sexton, he was a paid officer of the parish church who looked after the churchyard, often dug the graves, tolled the bell for services. A Verger would look after the inside of the church, the communion vessels, etc. Often, the sexton was also the verger. [Anne Cole]
  • If your ancestor was a Veterinary Surgeon, contact the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons by e-mail.