21 Ways to Find Your Ancestor’s Occupation


The cool thing about searching my family history is finding out about the lives and life stories of my ancestors. Genealogy to me is way more than just birth, marriage and death dates.

I have been particularly fascinated by the occupations that my ancestors had; especially the terms that I had never heard of – such as busheler and gas fitter. What the heck are those? (At the end of this article is a link so that you can find out some of these occupational terms used decades and centuries ago.)

But what records and documents contain our ancestors occupations? Here is a list of many of these documents and records that I use to record my ancestor’s “work” life.

  • Census Records
  • City Directories
  • Draft Cards
  • Death Certificates
  • Passenger Lists
  • Birth Certificate/Record of child –  the parents occupations are often provided
  • Military Enlistment and Other Records
  • Photographs –  although not written – if in some kind of uniform, this can be a good hint as to occupation
  • Marriage Certificates
  • Voter Registrations
  • Mortuary Records
  • Naturalization Records
  • Passport Applications
  • Patent Applications
  • Social Security Applications – Employer’s name is included often
  • Obituaries
  • Membership in Fraternal Societies
  • Union Membership Documents
  • Wills/Probate
  • Newspaper Articles of all kinds – Legal notices, advertisements and classified ads are often useful
  • Miscellaneous Court Documents

What others can you think of?

Here is a terrific list of occupation names of old:

Ranks, Professions, Occupations and Trades

So let’s get to WORK and find our ancestors occupations! (pun intended)


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