In Bounds: Apprenticeships and Indentured Servitude
Typically, apprentice ship records were made at the local level, but many of these documents have since migrated into state archives and historical societies. If you have English ancestors, you might be able to use apprenticeship records to trace your kin back to the old country; the UK Public Records Office has a helpful guide to these resources at <catalogue.pro.gov.uk/ExternalRequest. asp?RequestReference=ri2187>. For early American ancestors, the FHL has collections of apprenticeship documents from Pennsylvania and Virginia. Ancestry.com offers a database of more than 8,000 Virginia apprentices from 1623 to 1800.
So your ancestor was an axle tree maker — what does that mean? Use this glossary to translate your kin’s archaic occupations. For more career guidance, consult A Dictionary of Old Trades, Titles and Occupations by Colin Waters (Countryside Books), Old Occupations Explained <www.usgenweb.org/research/occupations.shtml> and A List of Occupations <www.cpcug.org/user/jlacombe/terms.html>.
? accomptant: accountant
? amanuensis: secretary or stenographer
? axle tree maker: maker of axles for coaches and wagons
? baxter: baker
? bluestocking: female writer
? brewster: beer manufacturer
? cohen: priest
? collier: coal miner
? costermonger: fruit seller
? gaoler: jailer
? hind: farm laborer
? joyner/joiner: skilled carpenter
? lavender: washer woman
? leech/sawbones: physician
? snobscat: shoe repairer
? tide waiter: customs official
? tipstaff: policeman
? whitewing: street sweeper
? American Silversmiths
? Circus Folk Genealogy Resources
? Directory of Corporate Archives in the United States and Canada
? Great Lakes Ship Masters Database
? Judges of the United States Courts
? Railroad History
? Religious Communities Archives
Did your ancestors live in a “company town”? If so, their occupational records could reveal more than just a few genealogical tidbits. For people in towns such as those run by the Stearns Coal & Lumber Co. in south-central Kentucky, their jobs really were their lives. The Stearns towns — comprising schools, churches and stores built by the company beginning in 1902 — provide a rare surviving glimpse into that way of life, in part because the Blue Heron coal-mining town lies within Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area <www.nps.gov/biso>.
You can ride the Big South Fork Scenic Railway <www.bsfsry.com>, as your coal-mining ancestors would have, from the tiny town of Stearns to the Barthell Coal Mining Camp. The first of 18 Stearns company towns and once home to 350 people, Barthell has been privately restored to show the history of coal mining. You even can spend the night in a reconstructed “company house” — with modern conveniences inside <www.barthellcoalcamp.com>.
Next, the train takes you to Blue Heron, where “ghost houses” re-create company-town life. These wall-less structures house cutouts of their former residents; press a button and you’ll hear stories of family, courtship and recreation. “You were not a normal person living at Blue Heron,” says one girl’s recorded voice.
After returning to Stearns, explore the historical buildings and artifacts at the McCreary County Museum (606-376-5730). The museum maintains the company archives, including records of those who once worked — and lived — in its towns.