Tuesday, June 1, 2010

What was an arab?

Today if you call someone an Arab you generally mean someone of that ethnicity. However, there was a time when calling someone an arab (lower case first letter) you were referring to "an orphan or outcast". A cod placer was a "pottery worker". A gallows maker was a "manufacturer of braces or suspenders for holding up a man's trousers." These, and many other helpful definitions, come from the source A Dictionary of old trades, titles and occupations by Colin Waters (Countryside Books, Newbury, Berkshire, 2002). As today, in days of old, people were often identified socially by their occupation. "What do you do?" is an acceptable phrase in polite conversation when you first meet someone. The words used for occupations often varied from one area of the country to another, and certainly from one nationality to another, so the book's definition should be used with caution in defining the work of your ancestors. Further research may need to be done on the time period and location where you find the title used. However, in reverse, the title can also be used to help you determine where your ancestor may have lived if they stated in a census that a particular occupation was their trade. Often the trade to which they had been apprenticed is the answer to the question of occupation even if that is not the trade the person is currently practicing to earn a living. You can find this book to help with your research at R Gen 331.03 WAT.

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