52 Ancestors: Week 35 – Finding Occupational Records

Occupational records can give good insight on the working life of your ancestors. If your ancestor was in politics, the military, or in a position of power, chances are you can find detailed records on them. However, if your ancestor wasn\’t, you might have to be a little more creative in finding records. This post I\’m going to steer you to some sources that go beyond looking at a business directory.

Family Search
What you want to do is search their catalog. By using the search word \”Canada\” I was able to bring up a list of their holdings both online and offline. If you go through the list, you\’ll notice subheadings such as Business Records and Commerce, and Occupations. Expand on these subheadings and you can get individual titles. For instance, here\’s some titles of books I found:
  • Polk\’s dental register and directory of the United States and Canada, 1925 : complete index of dentists, alphabetically arranged
  • Shipping literature of the Great Lakes : a catalog of company publications, 1852-1990, compiled by  Le Roy Barnett
  • Ogilvie in Canada : pioneer millers, 1801-195, by G.R. Stevens
  • Clock & watchmakers and allied workers in Canada, 1700 to 1900, by John E. Langdon
When you click on the title, It will give you the record information. It will also give either a link to view it online, if possible. If it is not digitized, then you can click on the link to WorldCat to see if there is a copy available at a library near you. These can be public libraries, university libraries, or other institutions across the world. For instance, I found 55 different places to find Clock & watchmakers and allied workers in Canada, 1700 to 1900
Library and Archives Canada
The LAC has records pertaining to employment in their holdings. You can access their information page here.


As you can see above, they have a variety of occupational records listed. Just click on the type you\’re interested in, and it will give you some more detail on what they have, the access restrictions, and how to access.

Alternatively, you can also use the Archives Search. Try typing in an occupation, and see what comes up. I used the search term \”salesmen\”. and got 71 hits. Among the results were:

  • \”Volume 2 / Alberta Brotherhood of Dairy Employees & Driver Salesmen, Alberta.\”. 
  • Nasmith, Fennell & Porter – Toronto, Ontario – Fraudulent operations of certain stock salesmen re Manufacturers Finance Corporation Ltd. 
  • Bond Salesmen\’s Ordinance – NWT.
Internet Archive
This site can be a goldmine of information, but it takes some work to find things. Because they have digitized items from all over the world, you will really have to play with the search terms. I used \”inspector Canada\” just to see what would come up. There were over 300 hits, but many of them were only loosely connected to the search term I used. It will take some targeted searching. One interesting thing I found was a publication titled Transactions of the Engineering Institute of Canada from 1919. On page 34 an obituary section starts. Some obituaries are quite detailed in the work history of the engineer.

Provincial and Local Archives
If your ancestor worked for a company that had ties to the local history of the area, check the local or provincial archive. For instance, when I looked at the Provincial Archives of Alberta\’s website, I used the search term \”butcher\”. Among their holdings are several photographs of butcher shops from the 1920s and 1930s. These butcher shops are from around the province. While it may not give you specific details of your ancestor, how great would it be to have a picture of where they worked?

I looked at the Halifax Municipal Archives\’ website and searched using \”transit\”. Among their holdings are the Dartmouth Ferry Commission Records. I saw among the collection staff reports and engineer log books.

Contact the Company
If the company your ancestor worked for is still in existence, why not contact the company? Even if they don\’t have a company archive, they might steer you toward where historical records might be kept.

Have you come across a source for looking at employment records? let us know what it is in te comments below.

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