Ireland Occupations

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Online Resources[edit | edit source]

Knowing your ancestor's occupation may help you distinguish him or her from other individuals with the same name. Moreover, records associated with your ancestor's occupation may provide information about your ancestor's life and family.

For most Irish the Penal Laws restricted access by Catholic native Irish to government positions and the trades, thus the use of trade directories and apprentice and freemen’s records is limited to the small Protestant minority.

Trade directories can be found through the FamilySearch Catalog and through several of the websites listed on Irish Websites (National Institute). Grenham lists sources for apothecaries, artists, army and militia, attorneys and barristers, bakers, barbers and surgeons, booksellers, Board of Ordnance employees, bricklayers, carpenters, clergymen, clockmakers, coastguards, convicts, cooks, doctors, goldsmiths, linen workers, masons, members of parliament, merchants, millers, navy personnel, plumbers, police, post office employees, printers, prison warders, publicans, railway workers, seamen, silversmiths, smiths, stonemasons, teachers, vintners, watchmakers, and weavers.

One common road out of poverty in Ireland was to join the British Army, the Royal Navy or the police. Many others went to England for stints of work as railway laborers, canal "Navies", or in other civilian services. On the English census the enumerators were only required to state their country of birth if outside England, but you will sometimes find a county and occasionally a parish. Howerver if they had a job which could ultimately lead to a government pension, such as the army or police force, then it is probable that a record was made of their date and place of birth at the time they joined up or attested.[1]

Some Irish occupational sources include:

  • Attorneys, Lawyers, and Barristers were members of the legal profession and practicing members were required to have a formal education in one of the five Inns of Court. Four of the Inns were in the City of London, Gray's Inn, Lincoln's Inn, Inner Temple and Middle Temple. The fifth, King's Inn was located in Dublin. All of the Inns have published registers of admissions.
    • King's Inn, Dublin For a list of attorneys and barristers admitted to King’s Inn, see Keane, Edward, P. Beryl Phair and Thomas U. Sadleir, editors. King’s Inn Admission Papers 1607-1867. Dublin: Dublin Stationery Office for the Irish Manuscripts Commission, 1982. FHL British 941.83/D1 C4k The Irish Manuscript Commission has placed this volume online in their out-of-print collection King's Inn Admission Papers 1607-1867
    • Middle Temple For a list of admissions to the Middle Temple, London, see: Sturgess, H. A. C. Register of admissions to the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, from the fifteenth century to the year 1944. 3 volumes. London: Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, 1949. Volume 1, 1501-1781; volume 2, 1782-1909; volume 3, 1910-1944. (FHL call no. British 942.1/L1 C4st vol. 1-3 and on FHL microfilms Vols. 1-2 on 873,850, items 1-2 and Vol. 3 on 873,851, item 1).
    • Lincoln's Inn For a list of admissions to Lincoln’s Inn, see: The Records of the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn; vol. 1 from 1420 to 1799, vol. II admissions from 1800 to 1893 and chapel registers. London: Lincoln’s Inn, 1896-1902. FHL microfilm (only) volumes 1 (1422-1586) and 2 (1586-1660) 845,175 and volumes 3 (1660-1775) and 4 (1776-1845 with calls to the bar) 845,176. Available online on Google Books Lincoln's Inn Vol. 1 Lincoln's Inn Vol. 2 Lincoln's Inn Vol. 3 Lincoln's Inn Vol. 4
    • Gray's Inn For a list of admissions to Gray’s Inn, see: Foster, J. The Register of Admissions to Gray’s Inn 1521-1889 together with the marriages in Gray’s Inn Chapel 1695-1754. London: Hansard Publishing Union, 1889. FHL British 942.1/G1 K29f and FHL microfilm 844,906, item 1; second microfilm copy 1,696,584, item 3. Available online The Register of Admissions to Gray's Inn 1521-1889 Google Books
    • Inner Temple For a list of admissions, see: Students admitted to the Inner Temple 1547-1660. London: Inner Temple, 1877. The registers for the later years are only available at the Inner Temple. The FHL does not have copies of the published register for 1547-1660.
    • Inns of Chancery There were a number of Inns of Chancery associated with the principle inns named above. Students admitted to these Inns might become solicitors or proctors, however, many may also be found in the records of the Inns of Court where they were trained to become barristers. By the year 1900, the last of these Inns, i.e. Clement’s Inn, had closed. Admission registers are available for some of the Inns.
    • Law Lists are a chronological record of barristers and solicitors in Ireland. These have been published annually since 1775.
  • Records of freemen (businessmen who had special privileges, such as the right to vote), which are useful because they may list age, birthplace, parentage, and occupation.
  • Service records of the Royal Irish Constabulary (R.I.C the national police force), which provide each constable's name, age when appointed, native county, religion, physical description, and employment history. If a constable was married, information about his wife and children may also be included. The records are indexed and list several thousand men employed by the constabulary from 1816 to 1922. The Dublin Metropolitan Police (D.M.P) covered the city area, and records for this force include similar details to those for the R.I.C. but also show the civil parish of birth for each constable.
  • Alumni and member biographical sketches which are often published by Irish, English, and Scottish schools and universities that train people for professional occupations (such as medicine, law, and theology). For more information on these sources, see Ireland School Records.
  • Military records which contain information about Irish who pursued careers in the armed services. For more information on these records, see Ireland Military Records.
  • Coal mining: for information on this occupation, see the article Coal Mining in the British Isles.
  • Apprenticeship indentures: Dates, name of father, occupation of apprentice, age and sometimes birthplace, residence, names, addresses, and occupation of masters.[2]
  • Apprenticeship record books: Dates, names, of apprentice and masters, sometimes gives residence.[2]
  • De Breffny, Brian.  Employees of the Irish Revenue in 1709 List of persons in the employ of the Revenue Service in Ireland 1709, extracted from a payroll of Irish Revenue (found in the Mss Dept of the British Museum.) A number of englishmen actually came to Ireland in the Revenue Service and settled in Ireland.  Artic in The Irish Ancestor, vol. V. no.2.1973, pages 6-16. Family History Library Ref. 941.5 B2i V5-6.
  • Collectors of Revenue in Ireland, Michaelmas 1678 The list was extracted from British Museum, Add. Mss 15, 899, gives list of names and places. The Irish Ancestor, page73-74, Family History Library Ref. 941.5 B2i v5-6.
  • Obscure Irish Occupations and Causes of Death: Ireland civil registers list occupations and the death registers list the cause of death. These occupations may no longer exist (such as a cooper, which is a barrel maker) or the term used to refer to the occupation is no longer used. Often the terminology for the cause of death has changed. There are several resources you can use to learn more about obscure Irish occupations and cause of death:
    1. Use Old Irish Occupations at:
    2. Use A Dictionary of Occupational Terms Based on the Classification of Occupations used in the Census of Population, 1921 at:
    3. Search the Oxford English Dictionary, located at (Requires a subscription to use but free at the Family History Library, and at most larger public and at university/college libraries throughout the world.)  
    4. Search online.

Books[edit | edit source]

For a definition of an occupation, see the Oxford English Dictionary.

To locate Irish occupational sources available at the Family History Library, look in the Place Search of the catalog under the following headings:





Because English guild records sometimes list Irish people, also look under ENGLAND, LONDON - OCCUPATIONS or request information from guild records held at the Guildhall Library:

Guildhall Library
London EC2P 2EJ

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Christensen, Penelope. "Ireland Occupations (National Institute)," The National Institute for Genealogical Studies (2012),
  2. 2.0 2.1 The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Record Profile: Ireland,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1986-2003.