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How To Find Your Ancestor’s Occupational Records

What Are Occupational Records?

Occupational records are records where you can find a person’s job or career, aside from other personal information. In the past, a person’s occupation was found in other records or certificates and was sometimes mentioned in newspapers or obituaries.


Why Are Occupational Records Important?

Occupational records help you learn what were the kinds of jobs your ancestors took, as well as also helping you know if you had a family business in the past. There may be times when an ancestor had to jump from occupation to occupation. Perhaps a generation in your lineage stuck to one occupation as they mastered it, or perhaps your ancestors had a business that they tended to for a long time.

It’s also important because it lets you know the social standing of your ancestors. By finding out what their occupations were, you can search deeper into their economic situation at a certain period.

Why Are Occupational Records Difficult To Find?

Finding the occupation of your ancestor can be somewhat difficult, as some of them may have changed jobs at certain parts of their lives. For this, you need to comb through multiple records and documents to either list all the occupations your ancestors had or remove all the false findings you may have gotten during your search.

The occupation of your ancestor may also be difficult if your ancestor took on a job that was illegal in their time, i.e. working at a bar during the Prohibition era, or working under the table. This is difficult to verify as records of these occupations may not exist, so it’s important to ask around your family as well.

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How Can I Find My Ancestor's Occupation?

Census records often hold basic personal information of a resident of a certain city or county. In there, you may the occupation of your ancestor as well as other valuable information such as:

  • Your ancestors’ name
  • Place where your ancestor resided
  • Age of your ancestor when they took the census
  • Their civil status
  • Your ancestors’ parents

Federal and census records may have the most information about your ancestor, so be sure to check these records when you start your research. Be sure to work your way backward with these records so that you can unearth more information about your lineage.

Ask Around In Your Family

Talking to your relatives can be a good place to start when you want to know about your ancestor’s occupations. There may be moments when you might get information from the stories you hear that aren’t found in any official document or record. Interesting tidbits about an ancestor’s or family’s life (such as odd jobs or family businesses) are passed down from generation to generation because it’s what makes your family history colorful.

Going through family documents such as journals, letters and diaries is also a good way to find occupational records, as there might be information in there that can’t be found on official documents.

Directories And Newspapers

Newspapers and directories are also good places to seek out occupational records. Though they may be considered ‘unofficial’ records, looking through these papers can be of great help. Not only can you find your ancestor’s occupation (if they’re mentioned in a newspaper) but you might also find descriptions of their career and accomplishments.

Directories are what came before telephone books, and in these city directories, you may find your ancestor, their occupation, and where they resided. Newspapers can also help you find out where your ancestor lived if these newspapers’ were for a specific country or county. Even obituaries may list your ancestors’ occupation, and may even highlight their achievements in their field.


Other Personal Records

Of course, other records such as birth and death records can aid you in learning about your ancestors’ occupations. Birth records may even be of greater help as they list the occupation of your ancestors’ parents as well.

There are other personal documents in which you can find an ancestor’s occupation, such as licenses, pensions, or military records. Licenses are important to take note of, as this signifies that your ancestor had a professional career. This could indicate not just the economic status of your ancestor, but their educational attainment as well. Knowing this kind of information will help you know more about your family history.

Can I Find Occupational Records Online?

Websites such as Ancestry house hundreds and possibly even thousands of occupational records online. Websites such as Ancestry go through documents such as census, birth, and death records to be your research easier. For these websites though, you may need your ancestors’ first and last names to possibly know their occupations. Some may even have to ask for the place where your ancestor lived, so use these websites if you’re sure you have the information it needs.

Do Occupational Records Still Exist Currently?

While occupational records still exist, they may not be like the ones that you have found of your ancestors. While someone’s occupation can be found in government IDs or licenses, it is harder now to have a full list of someone’s career life because of modern technology.

Most, if not all, databases and records are stored online nowadays, making it hard to track specific information in the future. Some companies store their employees’ documents such as resumes for safekeeping, while some documents are gradually destroyed over time. If you want to have a permanent document of your career or living relatives, you may want to keep physical copies of important documents.

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