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Occupational Records

Slater’s Trade Directory 1846

   I hope all of you in the US are enjoying your Labor Day and having your final barbecue of summer.  Here in Florida it’s summer most of the year, so we’ll continue to cook and eat outdoors.  I also want to offer my thoughts and prayers for all of the people of Texas caught in the horrendous aftermath of Harvey.  

   I had planned to write on Estate Records this week as a follow-on to last week’s blog on researching in Ireland, but on this Labor Day, occupational records seemed more appropriate.  Although there are some online records on occupations, many additional sources are only available in Ireland.  One of the best places to check is John Grenham’s Tracing Your Irish Ancestors which has an entire chapter dedicated to occupations.  

   Probably the majority of our ancestors were farmers, and therefore there are not a lot of records available on them.  I will focus on Estate Records next week which may provide some insight.

   If your ancestor had an occupation, begin by checking Directories.  There are Trade Directories, as well as City/Provincial Directories covering years from the early 1820s.  The sample above is the Slater’s Trade Directory from 1846.  It lists Gentry and Clergy, Professional Persons, Spirit Dealers and Shopkeepers and Traders.  The largest selection of Directories is in Ireland, but many have been put online.  Check both Ancestry and FindMyPast as well as doing a Google search on Directory and the location of your ancestor.  Ireland XO wrote an article on Trade Directories earlier this year.

   But if your ancestor was a doctor, for example, FindMyPast has the Ireland Medical Directory for 1852 and 1858 online. Ancestry has some records for nurses beginning in the 1890s    Grenham lists 14 sources for doctors, mostly books and records available at the National Library or National Archives.  If there is something of interest, check WorldCat to find the closest library that might have the publication.  You may be able to obtain it through InterLibrary Loan.  There are also records at the Royal College  of Physicians in Dublin.  

   Was your ancestor in the police or constabulary?  Directories, service records and pension records for the Constabulary are available at FindMyPast and Ancestry.  Jim Herlihy has written multiple books on the Constabulary and the Metropolitan Police.  His book, The Royal Irish Constabulary: A Complete Alphabetical List of Officers and Men, 1816 - 1922 contains an alphabetical list of individuals with their service number and can be found at many library so check WorldCat (put in your zip code to find the locations closest to you).  Some libraries may enter a truncated title, so use the advance search feature to select by author and keyword.

   I can’t cover all of the occupations here, but just some of the categories covered by Grenham are: Apothecaries, Bakers, Bricklayers, Engineers, Militia, Post Office employees, Publicans, Seamen, Railway workers, and Teachers.  

   Military records are a huge category.  The Irish served in the British military and many of those records are at the National Archives in the UK. They have extensive reference guides on their site about military records which you should review. You may find that your ancestor, born in Ireland was the child of a British Army member serving in Ireland. 

   Another large category is religious vocations.  Church of Ireland clergy records can be found at the Representative Church Body Library just outside of Dublin.  There are also a series of books written by Canon J. B. Leslie titled Clergy & Parishes.  The Presbyterian Church has the Fasti of the Irish Presbyterian Church which gives information on clergy, their education, marriage and churches where they served.  As mentioned in my blog on Presbyterian records, there are different types of Presbyterians, so you may need to check multiple books.  These books are available in Ireland, but some libraries in the US also have them.  Check WorldCat

    Roman Catholic priests, nuns and brothers should also be researched.  Even though they did not marry they are likely to have biographical information, especially if they belonged to an Order.  Google the Order and determine the location of the provincial or mother house.  Check to see if there is an archivist and write for additional information.  I have an extensive obituary for my husband’s second half cousin from the Carmelite Order.  It lists his family, where he was born and educated, and every place he served.  If they were a diocesan priest, write to the archivist at the Diocese.

   Even if you can’t find your ancestor’s name listed, reading some of the literature on his occupation will help get a better understanding of his life.

   Happy Hunting!   


September is the month to register for one (or both) of the 2018 Ireland Research Trips.  Anyone who registers before October 1, 2017 will receive a $100 discount.  Don’t miss out on this opportunity to visit and research in Ireland.

© Donna M. Moughty 2007- 2017