12 July 2009

Working Families and Genealogical Studies

Although working families has become an overused populist slogan in Australia in recent years, I think of it in terms of the past rather than the future. Families are groups of people who do more than work, at least in my idea of a good society.


In this blog post, I want to write more on the topic of the jobs done by ancestors. Do you know what your great grandparents did to earn a crust?

In her youth, my great grandmother Annie G worked in one of the many Lyons tearooms in London, along with her sister Flo. It was somewhere near the Tower of London.

Meals away from home


My great grandfather in Belfast worked as a yarn dresser, which I have recently found out involved preparing flax fibres ready for spinning.

An interesting list of old occupations

My great grandmother Edith Emma in Shropshire worked as a book sewer in her youth, as did her sister Louisa. It was probably a fiddly job to sew the pages of books into place.

Sewing books

My great grandfather Jack worked as a conductor on North London's trams for most of his adult life.

Take a journey back in time

Many in the angel one's family were busy making and selling ice cream in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

A history of ice cream


My great grandfather in Shropshire was a store keeper. He did not own a shop, though. He was responsible for maintaining an inventory of supplies at an iron works before the First World War, and at an munitions factory during the war. Many of his fellow workers in the factory were women.

Munitions factories in World War One

Some of my family took in lodgers to help pay the rent. Housework was always a chore, too. Then there was the strain on women of regular pregnancies. Many of my ancestors had little or no schooling. They had to work from a very early age.

Poverty and families in the Victorian era

The wealthiest relative I have so far come across from the early to middle 1800s worked as an inspector of London post offices in the 1840s and 1850s. He was my great, great, great grandfather and his first name was Welcome.

A museum about the history of the post office in Britain


The wealthiest relative from the early 20th century was my grandmother Alice's uncle Louis. He was the manager of a spice warehouse in London. He was the only person in the family who had a car (automobile to North American visitors here).

A history of the spice trade

You will already have met some coal miners, tailors and migrating musicians in some of my earlier blog posts. Some of my ancestors were also carpenters and builders in Huntingdonshire and London.

What did your ancestors do for a living? How different is your family's working life now from that of previous generations?

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I especially appreciate historical insights.