Ancestor Searching, Vol. 4, #6

Terms and Meanings of Genealogical Words: Something a little bit different from the usual articles. During the course of research, terms and initials are bound to appear in most any kind of document that will require researchers to search for answers as to just exactly what the meaning of a word or abbreviation indicates or means. In an effort to offer assistance with these terms and abbreviations, the following lists are the first of a two-part series on genealogical terms and their meanings. This month's newsletter covers the subjects of occupations and initials.

Old Occupations

Here is a list of old occupations compiled. Some of the words have evolved to mean other things in modern times. They can be a tremendous help, especially when reading census records or wills.

  • Accomptant—Accountant
  • Almoner—Giver of charity to the needy
  • Amanuensis—Secretary or stenographer
  • Artificer—A soldier mechanic who does repairs
  • Bailie—Bailiff
  • Baxter—Baker
  • Bluestocking—Female writer
  • Boniface—Keeper of an inn
  • Brazier—One who works with brass
  • Brewster—Beer manufacturer
  • Brightsmith—Metal Worker
  • Burgonmaster—Mayor
  • Caulker—One who filled up cracks (in ships or windows or seems to make them watertight by using tar or oakum-hem fiber produced by taking old ropes apart)
  • Chaisemaker—Carriage maker
  • Chandler—Dealer or trader; one who makes or sells candles; retailer of groceries, ship supplier
  • Chiffonnier—Wig maker
  • Clark—Clerk
  • Clerk—Clergyman, cleric
  • Clicker—The servant of a salesman who stood at the door to invite customers; one who received the matter in the galley from the compositors and arranged it in due form ready for printing; one who makes eyelet holes in boots using a machine which clicked.
  • Cohen—Priest
  • Collier—Coal miner
  • Colporteur—Peddler of books
  • Cooper—One who makes or repairs vessels made of staves & hoops, such as casks, barrels, tubs, etc.
  • Cordwainer—Shoemaker, originally any leather worker using leather from Cordova/Cordoba in Spain
  • Costermonger—Peddler of fruits and vegetables
  • Crocker—Potter
  • Crowner—Coroner
  • Currier—One who dresses the coat of a horse with a currycomb; one who tanned leather by incorporating oil or grease
  • Docker—Stevedore, dock worker who loads and unloads cargo
  • Dowser—One who finds water using a rod or witching stick
  • Draper—A dealer in dry goods
  • Drayman—One who drives a long strong cart without fixed sides for carrying heavy loads
  • Dresser—A surgeon's assistant in a hospital
  • Drover—One who drives cattle, sheep, etc. to market; a dealer in cattle
  • Duffer—Peddler
  • Factor Agent—commission merchant; one who acts or transacts business for another; Scottish steward or bailiff of an estate
  • Farrier—A blacksmith, one who shoes horses
  • Faulkner—Falconer
  • Fell monger—One who removes hair or wool from hides in preparation for leather making
  • Fletcher—One who made bows and arrows
  • Fuller—One who fulls cloth; one who shrinks and thickens woolen cloth by moistening, heating and pressing; one who cleans and finishes cloth
  • Gaoler—A keeper of the goal, a jailer
  • Glazier—Window lassman
  • Hacker—Maker of hoes
  • Hatcheler—One who combed out or carded flax
  • Haymonger—Dealer in hay
  • Hayward—Keeper of fences
  • Higgler—Itinerant peddler
  • Hillier—Roof tiler
  • Hind—A farm laborer
  • Holster—A groom who took care of horses, often at an inn
  • Hooker—Reaper
  • Hooper—One who made hoops for casks and barrels
  • Huckster—Sells small wares
  • Husbandman—A farmer who cultivated the land
  • Jagger—Fish peddler
  • Journeyman—One who had served his apprenticeship and mastered his craft, not bound to serve a master, but hired by the day
  • Joyner / Joiner—A skilled carpenter
  • Keeler—Bargeman
  • Kempster—Wool comber
  • Lardner—Keeper of the cupboard
  • Lavender—Washer woman
  • Lederer—Leather maker
  • Leech—Physician
  • Longshoreman—Stevedore
  • Lormer —Maker of horse gear
  • Malender—Farmer
  • Maltster—Brewer
  • Manciple—A steward
  • Mason—Bricklayer
  • Mintmaster—One who issued local currency
  • Monger—Seller of goods (ale, fish)
  • Muleskinner—Teamster
  • Neatherder—Herds cows
  • Ordinary Keeper—Innkeeper with fixed prices
  • Pattern Maker—A maker of a clog shod with an iron ring. (A clog was a wooden pole with a pattern cut into the end)
  • Peregrinator—Itinerant wanderer
  • Peruker—A wig maker
  • Pettifogger—A shyster lawyer
  • Pigman—Crockery dealer
  • Plumber—One who applied sheet lead for roofing and set lead frames for plain or stained glass windows.
  • Porter—Door keeper
  • Puddler—Wrought iron worker
  • Quarrier—Quarry worker
  • Rigger—Hoist tackle worker
  • Ripper—Seller of fish
  • Roper—Maker of rope or nets
  • Saddler—One who makes, repairs or sells saddles or other furnishings for horses
  • Sawbones—Physician
  • Sawyer—One who saws; carpenter
  • Schumacker—Shoemaker
  • Scribler—A minor or worthless author
  • Scrivener—Professional or public copyist or writer; notary public
  • Scrutiner—Election judge
  • Shrieve—Sheriff
  • Slater—Roofer
  • Slopseller—Seller of ready-made clothes in a slop shop
  • Snobscat / Snob—One who repaired shoes
  • Sorter—Tailor
  • Spinster—A woman who spins or an unmarried woman
  • Spurrer—Maker of spurs
  • Squire—Country gentleman; farm owner; justice of peace
  • Stuff gown—Junior barrister
  • Stuff gownsman—Junior barrister
  • Supercargo—Officer on merchant ship who is in charge of cargo and the commercial concerns of the ship.
  • Tanner—One who tans (cures) animal hides into leather
  • Tapley—One who puts the tap in an ale cask
  • Tasker—Reaper
  • Teamster—One who drives a team for hauling
  • Thatcher—Roofer
  • Tide waiter—Customs inspector
  • Tinker—Am itinerant tin pot and pan seller and repairman
  • Tipstaff—Policeman
  • Travers—Toll bridge collection
  • Tucker—Cleaner of cloth goods
  • Turner—A person who turns wood on a lathe into spindles
  • Victualer—A tavern keeper, or one who provides an army, navy or ship with food
  • Vulcan—Blacksmith
  • Wagoner—Teamster not for hire
  • Wainwright—Wagon maker
  • Waiter Customs officer or tide waiter—one who waited on the tide to collect duty on goods brought in.
  • Waterman—Boatman who plies for hire
  • Webster—Operator of looms
  • Wharfinger—Owner of a wharf
  • Wheelwright—One who made or repaired wheels; wheeled carriages,etc.
  • Whitesmith Tinsmith—worker of iron who finishes or polishes the work
  • Whitewing—Street sweeper
  • Whitster—Bleach of cloth
  • Wright—Workman, especially a construction worker
  • Yeoman Farmer—who owns his own land

What Do Those Initials Mean?

Initials after your ancestor's names may provide useful information that you'd not expected. The following list includes initials you may come across, again, when reading old wills or other documents.

  • a.a.s. - died in the year of his/her age (anno aetitis suae) (86 y/o died in year 86)
  • d.s.p.  - died without issue (decessit sine prole legitima)
  • d.s.p.l.  - died without legitimate issue (decessit sine prole mascula supesita)
  • d.s.p.m.s.  - died without surviving male issue (decessit sine prole mascula supersita)
  • d.s.p.s  - died without surviving issue (decessit sine prole supersita)
  • d.unm - died unmarried
  • d.v.p. - died in the lifetime of his father (decessit vita patris)
  • d.v.m. - died in the lifetime of his mother (decessit vita matris)
  • Et al - and others (et alia)
  • Inst - present month (instans)
  • Liber - book or volume
  • Nepos  - grandson
  • Nunc  - Nuncapative will, an oral will, written by a witness
  • Ob - he/she died (obit)
  • Relict - widow or widower (relicta/relictus)
  • Sic - so or thus, exact copy as written
  • Testes - witnesses
  • Utl - late (ultimo)
  • Ux or vs - wife (uxor)
  • Viz - namely (videlicet)

Look for the second and final part of the series in the October newsletter on genealogy terms.

Genealogy Workshop

Fact: The term GEDCOM stands for Genealogical Data Communications. Years ago, one computer genealogy program couldn't read another program's data. Genealogists could only share computerized information with people who had the same program. Then the LDS Church, known for its commitment to family history, developed the GEDCOM standard. A software program could export a file in GEDCOM format, which could then be imported into a different program.

Most genealogy software today supports GEDCOM imports and exports, and family history files can be shared no matter what program an individual uses.

Tip: Ahnentafel is a methodical numbering system, from a German word meaning "ancestor table." Picture a pedigree chart, visually divide it into columns, and number each person one column at a time. The starting person is #1, the father is #2, the mother is #3. The father's parents are #4 & #5, the mother's parents are #6 & #7, etc.

The Ahnentafel numbers are very systematic: all men are even numbers, all women are odd numbers. A father's number is double that of his child, and a mother's number is double-plus-one. With this information, ancestors be organized and listed without the need for a chart.