Saturday, August 31, 2013

Researching Occupations

There are several places you can search to find the employee records of your ancestors. If you already know your ancestor's occupation or employer, here are some records you may want to search for.

Labor Union Records
Most labor unions kept membership records. Some records may be available at local archives but most will be held at union headquarters. If you're looking for Chicago-area records, you can contact the Illinois Labor History Museum for information about local unions and labor movements.

Railroad Records
Chicago is a great place to research railroad employee records. Railroad workers are interesting in that they received their own Social Security Numbers and their own special pensions. Pension records for railroad employees can be found at the Railroad Retirement Board in Chicago. The Chicago History Museum also has records for the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.

Official Church Records
Many denominations kept or published directories of clergymen often with biographical information for each member of the clergy. These can be located at local church archives or at denomination headquarters.

Professional & Licensing Associations
Legal professionals are required to register with the state after passing the bar exam. Law directories have been published regularly since the 19th century and can often be found in law libraries or legal association archives. The American Medical Association has been keeping records on licensed medical practitioners since the 1800s as well. Many state archives will also have license records for lawyers, doctors, teachers, and any other professions that require licenses.

Indenture & Apprentice Records
If you're researching colonial ancestors you may find indenture or apprentice records. Information found in these records will vary but many of them will contain: the name of the apprentice, a parent or guardian's name, who they're being apprenticed to, location and length of the apprenticeship, the title of the trade and the types of skills the apprentice will be expected to perform. Some of these records will be government documents, others may belong to a church, some may have been more informal, private arrangements.

Other Places to Look:

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