by Delia

On this Labor Day, we as genealogists might want to give some thought to the occupations of our ancestors, and how those occupations may be reflected in the surnames we search. Some occupational surnames come readily to mind, such as Archer, Baker, Bowman, Brewer, Butcher, Carpenter, Farmer, Fisher, Hunter, Mason, Miller, Miner, Singer, and the ubiquitous Smith. But there are many more like Buller (a scribe), Chandler (a candlemaker), Gage (an assayer), Nadler (one who made needles), Pease (a grower of peas), Plowright (a maker of plows), and Slater (person who covered roofs with slate), which also defined someone by their labor.

When you encounter a new surname in your research, take a few minutes to examine the meaning of the name to see if it reflects a progenitor’s work life. Many occupations were passed down through generations, so the meaning of the name might provide clues to the family origins.

In the meantime, enjoy your Labor Day holiday!