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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.
Some Irish occupational sources include:
- 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 Schools.
- Military records which contain information about Irish who pursued careers in the armed services. For more information on these records, see Ireland Military Records.
- Apprenticeship indentures: Dates, name of father, occupation of apprentice, age and sometimes birthplace, residence, names, addresses, and occupation of masters.
- Apprenticeship record books: Dates, names, of apprentice and masters, sometimes gives residence.
- 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, vol.VI.no.2.1974 page73-74, Family History Library Ref. 941.5 B2i v5-6.
- Falley, Margaret Dickson. Irish and Scotch-Irish Ancestral Research. 2 vols. Evanston, Illinois: Margaret Dickson Falley, 1961-62. (Family History Library book Ref 941.5 D27f 2 vols.)
- Grenham, John. "Occupations." Tracing Your Irish Ancestors: The Complete Guide. 3rd ed. Dublin, Ireland: Gill and Macmillan, 2006. (Family History Library book Ref 941.5 D27gj 2006.)
- Hayes, Richard J. Manuscript Sources for the History of Irish Civilization, the subject indexes. (Family History Library book 941.5 A5h.)
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:
IRELAND - OCCUPATIONS
IRELAND - OFFICIALS AND EMPLOYEES
IRELAND, [COUNTY] - OCCUPATIONS
IRELAND, [COUNTY], [TOWN or PARISH] - OCCUPATIONS
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
- Christensen, Penelope. "Ireland Occupations (National Institute)," The National Institute for Genealogical Studies (2012), https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Ireland_Occupations_%28National_Institute%29.
- 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.