Occupations linking us to our ancestors

Pharmacy in NSW

A pharmacy or “dispensary” as they were known

Looking at the occupation of an ancestor can tell you so much. It rounds out their everyday lives and what they did with their days. It shows a community of coal miners, generations of fathers and sons going into the pits. It shows a line of generations following a path from one occupation to the natural progression into another, for example from timber getting (cutting and transporting timber) to truck driver. It can also show a real break towards their own identity in the family such as a pharmacist coming from a line of ship builders. You can get a real insight into your ancestors.

My grandfather Douglas Alan Robinson was a pharmacist because his mother had ambitions for him. His mother (my great grandmother) had a brother that was a pharmacist in Bundaberg and raised a family that all went onto some form of medical careers. She saw the success that the family had and wanted that for her  youngest son. This was a great leap from the ship building tradition that he came from. My grandfather attended Sydney University and graduated to a job in a pharmacy on Pitt Street in Sydney.  Through his career he managed many different pharmacies with residences attached to them. He raised his family in some of them and then went on to manage his own pharmacies in Kingsford and Bondi. My father took me down to Bondi one time and told me the story of how my grandfather had chased a person that had stole from the pharmacy down the road. My grandfather was quite old at that point and did not recover his vigorous working life after that.

NSW State records has many archives for different professions such as chemists, nurses, police, publicans, railway employees and teachers http://www.records.nsw.gov.au/state-archives/indexes-online/professions-and-occupations

Another genealogy I did for a friend showed generations of coal miners in England. The interesting point about the coal mining in that area was that although the wives were listed as doing home duties and the children as scholars, it was generally found that the whole family was down in the coal mine helping the father. The father in the family would swing the picks and get the coal of the walls and was called a ”hewer”. Then the women and children would cart the coal out of the mine.In 1838, there was a disaster that left 24 children dead. This disaster lead to Queen Victoria and the British public to learn the terrible truth of conditions in the mine. The Queen ordered an investigation into working conditions in the mines and passed an act of parliament in 1842. This act prohibited any women and boys under 10 years old from working in the mines. This did not stop some women who dressed as men. Seeing the generations of coal miners that probably lived in such poverty makes you feel quite grateful for the modern day lives we live.

Typing in coal miners at the National Archives in the UK can help you find many individual records and history of coal mining in England. http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/

I hope that you can see from the above examples you can see how interesting looking at your ancestors occupations can be. So when you are doing your research make sure that you always note the occupations of your ancestors.  Finding out the history of an occupation and looking at conditions that your ancestors worked in all adds to your family history.  As with my grandfather and his pharmacy career you can also find out more about the personalities of family members and family stories to pass on.

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