Best websites for... agricultural labourers

This guide was last updated in 2009

If your ancestors worked on the land, you can find rich rural pickings online when researching your family, says Orla Thomas.

Most of us will have an ancestor who worked as an agricultural labourer at some point. In fact, the 1851 census records 1,460,896 people working as an “ag lab”, farm servant or shepherd – more than in any other field of employment. Only in 1871 did domestic service overtake it to the top spot.

Before the Industrial Revolution, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, many of our forebears would have toiled in Britain’s fields, but there are no websites devoted to studying them, says Ian Waller, author of My Ancestor was an Agricultural Labourer. “Data-wise, there’s nothing. But there’s a fair amount of commentary and historical information available, which is very useful because it will give you a better understanding of what an agricultural labourer did.”

Much of what has been published on agricultural labourers has been printed in paper form, so Waller recommends downloading academic articles in the form of PDFs. These documents – and other helpful sites – can be difficult to unearth, so on the following pages, we’ve done the hard work for you.

Photo © Hulton Archive Getty Images

The Museum of English Rural Life
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