View Full Version : Agricultural Labourer specialities?

15-09-2011, 10:39 PM
A good number of my ancestors were agricultural labourers, but my main interest is in my 2x great gramdfather Charles Jenkins (1844-1916).

I have read a few books and seen a few website about agricultural labourers, and all of them state that labourers tended to specialise in a certain type of work. So I was wondering if Charles might have left behind some clues as to what his speciality was?

In the 1861 census his occupation was given as "Carter's boy." Thereafter he is down on the censuses and his childrens birth/marriage certificates as any of labourer, general labourer, farm labourer, and agricultural labourer. However, on the birth certificate of one of his daughters he is down as a "Railway Labourer" and on his wifes death certifcate she is down as the widow of a "corporation labourer." Maybe irrelevent, but his eldest son travelled 70 miles from the family home to train to be a saddler.

So I was just wondering if the chances are that Charles specialised in driving horses and carts? Or have I got it wrong and did labourers just chase after any job that was going?

15-09-2011, 11:35 PM
I think - just as today - people's first priority was to have a job, but of course if you had any skills or specialisms they would stand you in good stead.

My ag labs sometimes started off as lads being paid pennies to scare crows, or pick stones out of fields, and then graduated to be ploughboys. One of my gt gt grandfathers was an oxman.

My Norfolk lot tended to do whatever they could, occasional work as railway labourers/plate-layers, fishing and labouring.

16-09-2011, 12:01 AM
One of my Dorset ag labs was mentioned in church records as a hurdlemaker, another as a waywarden.

The first made (in modern terminology) demountable stock fencing out of saplings; the second was responsible, so far as I can gather, for rounding up village workers to maintain local and rural roads.

I imagine both jobs, having seasonal peaks and troughs, were fitted in around usual fieldwork.

Peter Goodey
16-09-2011, 7:41 AM
Try the book My Ancestor was an Agricultural Labourer by Ian H Waller. It contains plenty of information on life and times etc and advice on further research. Perhaps Parish Chest can supply a copy of the book.

Also http://www.parishchest.com/english_farming_past_and_present__P87542

19-09-2011, 2:30 PM
Many thanks for the information.