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England Professional Occupations A to I (National Institute)

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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course English: Occupation Records-Professions and Trades and English: Occupations-Military & Services  by Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Professional[edit | edit source]

During the 16th-18th centuries the term profession was used to denote any occupation by which one earned a living. There was also a narrower definition including only the high-status occupations, particularly ‘divinity, law and physic’ (medicine). From the mid-seventeenth century, this group has broadened widely. I have chosen to include administration and civil servants; art and amusement; education; science and engineering; and sports in addition to the classic three professions. They are all more highly developed and organized than they were in the 17th century. Prest concluded that historically the greatest professional opportunities for exercising power and acquiring wealth came first in the church, then in the law, and only later in the medical, scientific and technological areas.

Since many professionals tended to have been recorded systematically during their lives, by receiving training, sitting examinations, receiving appointments of various kinds, and advertising themselves in contemporary publications, it has been much easier to compile biographical dictionaries and Who’s Who volumes about them. These regular library sources are easy to access and have not been enumerated here.

Administration and Civil Servants[edit | edit source]

Ÿ Accountants[edit | edit source]

There have been professional societies of accountants since 1870 and a downloadable leaflet on their history and activities is available from the Guildhall Library which has many of their records. However, all membership records and indexes, which include dates of articling and examinations, and firms for whom they worked are with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. The Institute maintains a collection of accounting material dating back to 1492.

Ÿ Civil Servants[edit | edit source]

Family historians are surprised by the amount of material available about civil servants, for the British government has kept good records of them. It should be noted that until well into Victoria’s reign government posts were awarded by patronage. Change started with a report in 1854 and entry by competitive examination, promotion on merit, and improved pay and pensions were in effect by 1870. The civil service was by then divided into administrative, executive and clerical grades. Herber (Ancestral Trails: The Complete Guide to British Genealogy and Family History. Genealogical Publishing Company,1999) summarizes the most relevant materials.

The upper levels of civil servants are listed in the annual calendars, almanacs and directories since 1669. There have been a number of these, Whitaker’s Almanac beginning in 1868, being perhaps the most well-known. Others are the Civil Service Year Book from 1873, the Colonial Office List from 1862, and the Foreign Office List from 1852 (see chart below) and many appointments are noted in the London Gazette. The Public Record Office leaflet D38 reviews sources for tax collectors and civil servants, as does Bevan who also gives the list of the volumes of Office Holders in Modern Britain 1660-1939. The Society of Genealogists is currently indexing the copies of birth and christening certificates submitted by civil service applicants between 1855 and 1880 which they hold. Camp (My Ancestors Moved in England or Wales. Society of Genealogists, 1994) gives further sources for government employees, including those who had to submit petitions and take oaths, for example the sacrament certificate. Camp (English Trades and Occupations. Family Tree Magazine. Vol 15 #4, page 7-8, 1999) lists the series of volumes started in 1972 called Office-Holders in Modern Britain. Freeman outlines her quest for Tudor civil servants through various materials in the Public Record Office such as State Papers.


Foreign Office List and Diplomatic and Consular Handbook 1898. Statement of Services

CROMBIE, Rev. Francis
was Consular Chaplain to the Scots Church at Paris from August 21, 1860, till October 29, 1863. Is professor in the University of St. Andrews.
CROMIE, Capt. Charles Francis, F.R.G.S.
entered the Army, January, 1878; promoted to be Captain, October, 1884. Retired, April, 1892. Passed an examination, August 20, 1894; and was appointed Vice-Consul at Dar-al-Baida, Morocco, August 27, 1894. Was Acting Consul at Dar-al-Baida from May 20 to September 11, 1897. Is a member of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem in England.
CROWE, Eyre Alexander Barby Wichardt
passed an examination and was appointed a clerk in the Foreign Office, May 23, 1885. Passed an examination in Public Law, June 22, 1886. Was appointed Assistant Secretary to the British Delegates at the International Sugar Conference in London, November 11, 1887; and Assistant Secretary to the British Special Commissioners for the Sugar Bounties Convention, April 25, 1889.
Note: many entries are much longer than those selected.

Estate Steward[edit | edit source]

The estate or land steward has been a part of the English landscape as long as people have owned land and needed someone else to manage it for them. He needs to be distinguished from the bailiff who merely collected the tenant’s rents and ensured their attendance at manorial courts. A large estate may have employed several under stewards as well as bailiffs, and in the 17th century sometimes the terms steward and bailiff were used almost interchangeably. During the 18th-19th centuries estate stewards became a highly professional group responsible for increasing agricultural efficiency.

An estate steward was not required to serve an apprenticeship, nor be examined as to his competence, nor belong to a professional body. However, he needed a very broad knowledge to run an estate, and be able to mobilize other professionals and tradesmen, and deal with labourers as well as dukes if the need arose. They were therefore usually older men with worldly experience and managerial skills. The duties of the estate steward varied immensely with the size and complexity of the estate, his own expertise, and how often his landlord was absent. There is little written about estate stewards except Hainsworth (The Estate Steward in PREST, Wilfrid. The Professions in Early Modern England. Croom Helm, London. FHL book 942 U2p) who supplies further details and a reference list.

Ÿ Hangman[edit | edit source]

The hangman or finisher of the law is described by Jerrold (The Hangman in Portraits of the English Vol II: Law and Order edited and published by COLLINS, Audrey. 1999. Original published by Robert Tyas, London, 1840) and Jeffery (Great-great-great-grandfather’s Other Job. Family Tree Magazine Vol 11 #11, page 3-4), who is descended from the famous William Calcraft. If any of your ancestors are noted as dying by dancing on a slack rope, or at the end of a rope, or dancing on nothing, they met a hangman.

Ÿ Informers and Spies[edit | edit source]

An interesting contemporary view of those obtaining a living as common informers is given by Jerrold (The Common Informer in Portraits of the English Vol II: Law and Order edited and published by COLLINS, Audrey. 1999-1. Original published by Robert Tyas, London, 1840). If they were caught there could be extensive information about their activities. Fascinating glimpses can be found in the Newgate Prison Calendar. A friend researching a Lutterloh ancestor suspected of being a double agent found him involved with the French spy Francis Henry De La Motte who was executed at Tyburn in 1781 for High Treason. Two pages of detail on the net lead to newspaper accounts and the full 80-page trial transcript including the cross examination of Henry Lutterloh on film.

Ÿ Inspector of Nuisances[edit | edit source]

To the modern Briton the name immediately conjures up a desire for a re-instatement of this occupation! But what did they do? We get a clue from the North American term nuisance grounds meaning a town tip or garbage dump. Nuisances were refuse heaps, smells, insanitary conditions, and even overcrowding, so he was the local sanitary inspector or environmental health officer appointed after the Nuisance Removal and Prevention of Diseases Act of 1846. Records of appointments etc. will be found in local archives, and Maybrey’s (Old Occupations: Inspector of Nuisances. Family Tree Magazine Vol 11 #4, page 9-10) article explains their duties.


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online courses English: Occupation Records-Professions and Trades and English: Occupations-Military and Services offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at

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