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Jobs and their descriptions

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Jobs and their descriptions

Postby PostedPast » Tue Sep 11, 2018 11:57 am

Can anyone recommend a good book that describes what job titles actually involved? In particular I’m working back from the Edwardian era to mid-1800s.

When I’ve asked this elsewhere I’ve received replies that begin ‘I imagine…’ ‘I expect…’ etc. but I would like something more factual and not based on assumptions. So, in 1911, I’d like to know what an electrical engineer actually did. I can imagine what a hat trimmer might have done, but I need the facts.

Is there a book?
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Re: Jobs and their descriptions

Postby sdup26 » Tue Sep 11, 2018 3:34 pm

There are websites that will give you a brief description or general overview of an old occupation or trade you may find listed for one of your ancestors, and google is probably the best bet for that. If you want more detail, try Shire; they have over 400 titles (mostly booklets) on old occupations and related topics. Their website is at www.shirebooks.co.uk
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Re: Jobs and their descriptions

Postby PostedPast » Tue Sep 11, 2018 4:19 pm

Thank you – that’s an interesting list of publications. I do have some websites but they don’t go into enough detail.
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Re: Jobs and their descriptions

Postby peter kent » Tue Sep 11, 2018 5:11 pm

The best publication to meet your needs is the "Dictionary of Occupational Terms Based on the Classification of Occupations used in the Census of Population, 1921". Compiled by the Ministry of Labour and published by HMSO, 1927.

It really is excellent. I've had a copy for years and refer to it frequently.

You can buy it on CD or the good news is there's an online version http://doot.spub.co.uk/intro.php
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Re: Jobs and their descriptions

Postby PostedPast » Tue Sep 11, 2018 5:29 pm

You're quite correct. It's perfect. Thank you.
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Re: Jobs and their descriptions

Postby AdrianB38 » Tue Sep 11, 2018 7:50 pm

You need to be a bit careful in assuming that there is an agreed definition about what job titles actually involved. That dictionary looks very useful indeed in defining terms and explaining them for specific industries, so thanks to Peter for it.

However - the sort of issue I'm referring to comes with occupations like "fireman". You might see that in a census or in a parish register, but unless you get a bit more of a clue, it leaves ambiguity. Is it a fireman who rides around on a fire-engine putting out fires? Or is it a fireman who rides on railway steam locomotives feeding the fire? (A stoker in American terms). Or a fireman down a mine who sets off explosions?

Then there are terms that are used at a general level in different industries where you might not even realise the difference exists. For instance consider "tradesman" in that dictionary:
retailer, seller, trader, tradesman
A general term for one who buys goods wholesale from manufacturer, merchant or importer, and sells them direct to consumer from office, shop or warehouse; see shopkeeper, retail.

But go into a factory where there are skilled workers and ask what a tradesman is, and you will be told that a tradesman has learnt a trade by serving an apprenticeship and a tradesman might be a coppersmith or welder or fitter, etc, etc.

So even with such a useful thing as that dictionary, you may still need to remember the classic answer - "It depends...."
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Re: Jobs and their descriptions

Postby PostedPast » Tue Sep 11, 2018 7:57 pm

Good advice. I think that's true, even today. Look at people using 'director'. It tells you nothing about what they do.
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