When you come across various types of occupations, such as on tax records, census pages or even on some death certificates, it can be confusing because so many terms and trades are no longer commonly known.
Jobs that are outright obsolete or just go by different names now are hard to understand and won’t do you any good if you don’t know what they mean.
Actually knowing the proper occupation can be important and it can lead you to further records or documents for that individual. Even just simple curiosity can be enough to want to know what the heck a “daunsel” is. Also, people often took surnames based on their occupations so there can be further information in someone’s job for that.
Though there are hundreds of possible old job titles that you might find, these are the most common ones that you might discover in your genealogy research. Some can be slang terms, and wouldn’t be found on legal documents.
Acater – Similar to the modern “caterer”, this is someone who provided the goods for ships. They would supply food and other provisions to ships at dock.
Ackerman, Acreman – A for-hire farm worker. This would be someone that a farmer would hire to help with certain tasks, like ploughing or herding. Not the same as an actual farmer.
Apparitor – A low-level public official that handles tasks in civil court. They would serve summons and arrange for witnesses, for example.
Barker – Another name for a tanner, who turned hide into leather.
Boniface – Someone who kept an inn, or worked as a landlord to tenants.
Brightsmith – A type of metal worker.
Burgonmaster – Another term for a higher town official, similar to a mayor.
Cooper – A specific type of woodworker who makes or repairs wooden kegs, barrels or casks.
Costermonger – A lesser-known term for any sort of cart peddler who sold produce or fruit from a stall.
Daunsel – Someone who worked as a personal servant to a nobleman. Specific jobs such as a squire, groom or a gentleman-in-waiting could be labelled as daunsels.
Drummer – A traveling salesman or sales representative.
Duffer – Another type of salesman, typically known for selling cheap or shoddy merchandise.
Endholdernn – Another name for an inn keeper.
Fleshewer – A seller of meat, or an actual butcher.
Furner – A master baker, or one who owned/operated his own bakery.
Gatward – Someone who kept herds of goats.
Grecher – Another name for a general store-keeper.
Headborough – A low-level police official a local parish officer.
Kedger – Another name for a fisherman or a fishmonger.
Kempster – Someone who combed out raw wool for later spinning. One of the few occupations typically held by women.
Ordinary – This job name was used for several different types of public employment. Often for someone who ran an inn, restaurant or other kind of public house.
Pistor – A baker, or someone who just ground the flour.
Porcher – A pig farmer.
Raker – Someone who cleaned the street
Shrieve / Shriever – Another form of the word sheriff, for a higher ranking police official.
Tipstaff – A policeman or constable, that carried a metal-tipped staff as part of their uniform.
Wabster – A fabric weaver or cloth-maker.
Whitesmith – A tin-worker.
Yeoman – It’s generally used to describe a level of status, not really an occupation. Most often used to describe a land-owner of some kind.