Workday Wednesday

Researching Your Ancestor's Occupation

Today's post is going to be about my maternal grandfather, Thomas McLoughlin.  I have blogged about him plenty.  Probably the most comprehensive post I did about his working life was here.  Going through my mother's papers recently, I found a folder of papers relating to his working life which I had not "clocked" before.  

So I have learned a little bit more about his working life, particularly the years before he worked for the Commonwealth Aircraft Company.

Types of Sources and Repositories to check

In my previous post, I listed some types of sources that you could check to try and determine your ancestor's occupation.  Before I go on to list those, can I just say that this is for my grandfather?  That's only two generations away from me.  I was really lucky to know him.  He died when I was about 21.  I never knew my paternal grandfather who died before I was born.  A week before my parent's married to be precise.  So it seems crazy that I don't know much about the one I knew for 21 years.  But just stop and think.  How much do you know about your own parent's working career?  Could you do a timeline of where they worked and when? My grandfather was profoundly deaf (as a result of his occupation) so communication was challenging.  He loved me dearly and we both shared a love of books.  He loved chess.  I couldn't even begin to understand it.  We both loved history but combine that with all the distractions of youth and you can see how quickly family history evaporates can't you?  

So .... types of sources to check are:

  1. electoral rolls
  2. certificates (yes we're talking marriage and death but your ancestor could have received a qualification for their trade, occupation or profession too)
  3. archives
  4. museums (I'm thinking museums like The Railway Museum, the Qld Police Museum)
  5. websites 
  6. published histories
  7. journal articles
  8. newspaper articles
  9. family papers
Can you think of some more?  I'm sure there's more.  

The Importance of Preserving Family Papers

What can I say?  All my biggest finds I reckon have come from the treasure trove of family papers inherited along the way.  Reading letters from relatives can be boring and mundane but they can also contain nuggets in the dross of daily life.  And of course, letter-writing is now practically dead.  Most people communicate now by email or text or Facebook messenger, What's App or all four.  You can probably think of more. How are we going to preserve those conversations? Those decisions?

I recognise that my husband and I suffer from compulsive hoarding and stashing  but I am so so glad I kept my mother's papers for the time when I would have the time to read them i.e. now in retirement.  You may not get that chance.  If you are lucky enough to inherit family papers, set aside time each week or month to go through them.  Digitise them (that can be as simple as taking a photo of them as I have and then sharing them to Google Photos) and then put them in some kind of protective casing so that they can be preserved for future.  Or if you are space poor, by all means, chuck them or give them to someone who has more space, but make sure your digital copies are filed where you can find them, backed up and or shared with other family members or put in the cloud.  

Recording the Genealogy Timeline

So now that I have seen these documents I can create a more detailed timeline of Thomas Joseph Benedict McLoughlin's working life, namely:

29th May 1915        Offered a permanent appointment to the position of Clerk in the Land Tax                                    Office (as per letter above)

29th June 1915 
to 26th June 1919    Employed as Clerk 5th Class in Federal Taxation Office (as per letter                                          above)

July 1923 
to 9th March 1940     Employed by Lysaght Bros and Co Pty Ltd. as per letter below


Documenting Your Family History

So, what about you? Do your descendants have a clear documented trail they can follow of your working life?  Do you have funny folders lying around like I do with old resumes or curriculum vitae that document all the places you have worked?  No doubt your resumes have changed as you progressed with your career.  It's no longer important to record your work as a waitress or a bookseller's assistant as you move up the ladder.  And now presumably they are electronic files rather than physical files.  

Have you destroyed that evidence?  Perhaps you've retired and thought to yourself "Thank goodness I don't need one of those anymore!"  Will LinkedIn be around in 10 years time?  Will it be archived?  How are you going to help your descendants understand a significant part of your life and why you made the choices you made?  Will you look to the future, by preserving the past?

Woman in 30s and man in 70s looking to the right

My beloved mother, Barbara Conner (nee McLoughlin) with her father Thomas J.B. McLoughlin at a lookout c. 1970 (wish I knew and wish I knew when - guessing furiously by the size of Mum's sunglasses and hairstyle - happy for feedback)

I am painfully aware that I do not have all the answers.  If this post has provoked or inspired you to have a light-bulb moment, please don't hesitate to comment.  We can only progress by sharing and moving forward together.

PS Did you notice that I used headings in this post?  I never use headings normally.  Did it help or hinder?

Addendum - 
Browsing the web I found two useful blogs/websites with more info about Lysaghts, where it was (Chiswick) and some great photos.  Michael Mangold's site has some beautiful photos and a transcript of his book. Bytes blog also has a good little entry - you will need to scroll down to Chiswick to read about Lysaghts.  I am also pursuing an article by C.B. Schedvin published in the Australian Economic History Review in 1970 entitled Rabbits and Industrial Development: Lysaght Bros and Co Pty Ltd 1884 - 1929 through the NLA and will let you know of my progress.


crgalvin said…
I’m enjoying your return to regular blogging and yes I do think using headings to break up text is useful. This post has certainly made me aware of the need to “timeline” our own lives and those of our parents, Thanks for the prompt.
Alex Daw said…
Thank you dear Carmel. Putting in headings is a conscious effort at the moment but I guess it helps me structure the post. And yes, it's easy to forget to include ourselves in family history isn't it?
Crissouli said…
Congratulations! Your blog has been included in INTERESTING Blogs in Friday Fossicking at

Without we fellow hoarders, where would we be... our historical records and family stories would be so much poorer. Love reading your blogs...Thank you, Chris
Alex Daw said…
Thank you dear Chris. You are very kind indeed. Hooray for fellow hoarders :)
Crissouli said…
You're welcome... glad to admit it, then no apologies given for the treasures that surround me.

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