Saturday, 31 May 2014

Family Tree News 31 May 2014

I have been updating the Coventry Blitz Resource Centre this week, and would like to thank the following two people in particular:

LyneMarie - Thanks for providing corrections and additional info for Lillian Bucknill's record

David - thanks for getting in touch asking about Christine, Herbert and Olive Whitehouse. I was happy to research the details for you, and have added them to the website.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Family Tree News 11 May 2014

I received an interesting message this week.

This was from Tom K, sent via my website contact form. Tom asked:
I have a question about Dictionary of Old Occupations by Jane Hewitt. Ive bought it and it is cool. But why does the book call old english occupations? I thought old english period is from V to XI century, but the book consists occupations mainly from the 19 th century. By the way why not to call them Professions?

Well, that's a good question and deserves an answer. I'll tackle the second part first - why did I choose to call them occupations rather than professions?

When I first started writing the Dictionary of Old Occupations the intention was to write a useful resource for people researching their family trees. When researching a family tree you typically find yourself searching old census records which provide an official record of people living together. UK census records use the term 'Occupation' rather than 'Profession' to describe what people did for a living. So when writing the Dictionary I chose to use the term 'occupation' to be consistent . You can find out more about census records on my website here. People may prefer to call them 'old professions' or similar, and that is perfectly fine. I sometimes use terms such as 'historic jobs' or 'archaic trades' too.

Census records also provide the answer to the first part of your question. Here in the UK the oldest census recordset we typically use dates all the way back to 1841. When someone encounters an ancestor with unfamiliar occupation listed on an official census record, the Dictionary of Old Occupations is intended to help explain what that occupation actually involved. Which is why the majority of the occupations listed cover the 19th and 20th centuries.

Having said that, lots of the included occupations and trades date back for many, many centuries prior to that, and as the Dictionary grew in size to include over 2,000 occupations it does include some much more archaic occupations. As for the oldest occupation listed, well, subject to debate, that could be, ahem, 'Unfortunate'. If you encounter a female ancestor whose occupation is listed as 'Unfortunate' on a census record then their 'trade' may have been that of a member of what is commonly called 'The Oldest Profession'. If you are unfamiliar with the term 'oldest profession' then a search engine will provide a quick explanation. Let's just say that particular occupation is thousands of years old!

Initially the scope of the book was to cover English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh occupations, but it gradually expanded to include United States specific occupations and other parts of the English speaking world too. There is a natural overlap in occupational titles and trade names between English speaking nations. Where I knew about regional- or national- specific occupations I tried to include those.

I'm glad you found the book cool Tom, and I hope I have fully answered your question. Thanks for getting in touch.