Dictionary of Old Occupations

If you discovered your great, great grandfather was a fripperer, would you know what he did for a living? What about a quarrel picker? Or a ganneker? Many old occupations have faded into oblivion while others are still in existence but have very different titles. You don’t need to scratch your head and wonder what the heck these jobs involved, head over to the Old Occupations website where you will find an easy to navigate dictionary listing hundreds of job titles.

I did notice that some of the jobs are not what you would call respectable. For example, I suspect you are more likely to find a fancy woman (a, umm, lady of easy virtue) on court transcripts than in the census. On the other hand, some sound quite dodgy, but are in fact legitimate occupations, such as a faker. Not a forger or a conman, but a photographers assistant.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, here are the definitions of the first three I listed:

Fripperer: Bought and sold old clothes and fripperies

Quarrel picker: Glazier

Ganneker: An Inn keeper


5 thoughts on “Dictionary of Old Occupations

  1. Hi and thanks for the link.
    It’s solved a mystery for me! I have an ancestor that was a Cordwainer which I thought was something to do with shipbuilding or rope making.What a surprise to find that a Cordwainer is a Shoemaker!
    Thanks again,

  2. I’ve come across an occuation I can’t decipher. What was an Ealing housekeeper found in 1881 census for Edward Wm Holden of Lambeth, London? I Googled it and found two more, but no explanations.

  3. @Carol Bell
    Ealing is in the London area, as is Lambeth, so I would assume that you are simply looking at a housekeeper in the Ealing area.

    I have found another glossary of old occupations useful. It is under construction, but does contain occupation definititions for addditional occupations found in census data which are not on your other link. The address is:

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