Job Hunting: Out of Business?

Job Hunting: Out of Business?

Just because your ancestors' company no longer exists doesn't mean you're out of genealogical luck. Follow these tips to track down documents of defunct businesses.

In Bounds: Apprenticeships and Indentured Servitude

These Colonial practices produced the earliest occupational records of American ancestors. Learn how to find them.
 
David A. Fryxell
 
Among the oldest occupational records you’re likely to find are those for two kinds of employment almost unheard of today: apprenticeships, in which a young person was bound to a master to learn a trade, and indentured servitude, in which a person was committed to working off a debt, such as payment for passage to America. The two often overlap, and in Colonial America the agreement apprenticing a youth was called an indenture. These documents are valuable for genealogy because they had to be signed by the apprentice’s parent or guardian. Most apprentices were teenage boys, and they were obligated to work at their trade until age 21. The term of an apprenticeship can be used to estimate an apprenticed ancestor’s age, by subtracting the term from 21.

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.

Indenture records also can overlap with passenger records, as the most common type of indenture was payment for passage to America. State and local archives may hold indenture records, although these can take a bit of digging to find. The Pennsylvania State Archives, for instance, has two boxes labeled “Records of the Proprietary Government, Provincial Council, 1682 1776 — Miscellaneous Papers, 1664-1775,” among which a dedicated researcher could uncover the Oct. 31, 1765, agreement binding one Charles Carroll of Maryland to Richard McCallister.
 
From the April 2005 Family Tree Magazine
 
Business Unusual
 
So your ancestor was an axle tree maker — what does that mean? Use this glossary to translate your kin’s archaic occupations.
 
Lauren Eisenstodt

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

? peruker: wigmaker
 
? slopseller: seller of ready-made clothes

? snobscat: shoe repairer

? tide waiter: customs official

? tipstaff: policeman

? vulcan: blacksmith
 
? webster: weaver

? whitewing: street sweeper

From the April 2005 Family Tree Magazine
 
Job Sites
 
Research your ancestor’s occupations on these Web sites.
 
Research your ancestor’s occupations on these Web sites:

? American Silversmiths

<freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~silversmiths>

? Circus Folk Genealogy Resources

<circusfolk.freeservers.com>

? Directory of Corporate Archives in the United States and Canada

<www.hunterinformation.com/corporat.htm>

? Great Lakes Ship Masters Database

<www.mifamilyhistory.org/glsdb/glship_index.htm>

? Judges of the United States Courts

<air.fjc.gov/servlet/uSpage>

? Railroad History

<www.rrhistorical.com>

? Religious Communities Archives

<www.unesco.org/webworld/portal_archives/pages/Archives/Religious_Communities_Archives>

? RootsWeb Occupations Mailing Lists
 

 
From the April 2005 Family Tree Magazine
 
The Working Life
 
Did your ancestors live in a “company town”? If so, their occupational records could reveal more than just a few genealogical tidbits.
David A. Fryxell

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.

For more on company towns, see Building the Workingman’s Paradise by Margaret Crawford (Verso), The Company Town by John S. Garner (Oxford University Press) and Coal Towns by Crandall A. Shifflett (University of Tennessee Press).
 
From the April 2005 Family Tree Magazine

 

 

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