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Ancestry Library Edition: Product Education

Ancestry® Library Edition, distributed exclusively by ProQuest and powered by, delivers billions of records in census data, vital records, directories, photos, and more from countries all over the world.


Q1: I see on a Census record that my ancestor's occupation was listed as 'cooper,' but I don't know what that is. How I can learn more about occupations and jobs throughout history?

Answer: There are numerous sources in the online genealogy community that can assist in defining and understanding your ancestor's occupation. Some offer era-specific examples and information, while others provide translations along with definitions. The list below will help get you started, but is in no way a comprehensive list. 

  • The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation's website regarding trades and occupations common in 18th century Williamsburg, Virginia.
  • site provides "A list of over 1500 occupations, their definitions and variants..."
  • has a robust list of historical occupations from around the world and their definitions.
  • The National Archives and Records Administration's 1940 Occupational and Industry Classifications book to help understand the codes used in the 1940 U.S. Federal Census.

FYI: The Oxford English Dictionary tells us that a 'cooper' is "a maker or repairer of casks and barrels."

Q2​: My ancestor's last name is a bit unusual, but when I search for it I find several misspellings and variations in the results. What's going on? 

AnswerChange is inevitable. Not just with the seasons, but, historically speaking, for many of us the spelling of our names has also changed over time. Whether intentionally or through human (or even technological) error, the spelling of names is a frequent hurdle for many genealogists to overcome when constructing name searches. More advice on how to become more comfortable with this inevitable occurrence and tips on how to better construct searches for name variation searching, read this Blog entry linked in the Ancestry Library Edition Learning Center!