German Genealogy Tip #6: In Germany, People Used Their Occupation as a Title

October 5, 2014 Josiah Schmidt German Genealogy Tips

Schuhmacher u. Anspänner Johann Adam Bartholomäus (shoemaker and farmer Johann Adam Bartholomäus)

Schuhmacher u. Anspänner Johann Adam Bartholomäus (shoemaker and farmer Johann Adam Bartholomäus)

When looking at genealogical records in Germany, especially from the pre-20th century era, you will often find that individuals’ names were prefixed by their job title. These occupational prefixes were capitalized, so don’t confuse the job title for being part of their given name.

Common examples are:

Taglöhner Johann Brack (English: day laborer Johann Brack)
Leinweber Friedrich Jungcurth (English: linen weaver Friedrich Jungcurth)
Taglöhnerin Margaretha Schuchardt (English: day laborer Margaretha Schuchardt)
Kochin Elisabeth Hotzel (English: cook Elisabeth Hotzel)

This is an important piece of information to note about your ancestor, not just because it’s an interesting historical tidbit, but also because it can help you keep track of individuals in a community where several other people probably share the same name. There might be half a dozen Johann Bracks all alive at the same time in the same little village, and it can be easy to get them confused. However, one might be a Teerführer (tar hauler), one might be a Musikant (musician), one might be a Soldat (soldier), and so on, which could help you keep track of who’s who.

However, keep in mind that many individuals in Germany held multiple occupations, or changed occupations throughout their life. It is possible that Friedrich Jungcurth was trained as a linen weaver (Leinweber), and served temporarily as the town mayor (Bürgermeister), and also made extra money doing odd jobs as a day laborer (Taglöhner). Different records might list the same individual under different occupations.

German language records in America tended not to list job titles in front of people’s names as much, however. This was mostly a practice that took place in Germany.

German English Genealogical Dictionary by Ernest Thode

“German English Genealogical Dictionary” by Ernest Thode

One of my favorite resources for translating and learning about German occupations is the “German English Genealogical Dictionary” by Ernest Thode. It contains hundreds and hundreds of German occupation words–including very rare ones that might otherwise stump you when you’re trying to translate a German record. This book doesn’t contain every single German occupation title, but it is by far the most comprehensive resource I’ve found on this subject.

ancestrybookdictionarygenealogygermangermanyhistoryjoblanguageoccupationresearchtitlestranslatingtranslation

One Response to “German Genealogy Tip #6: In Germany, People Used Their Occupation as a Title”

  • Lisa Gorrell says:

    I just discovered your blog and enjoy it very much. This is great information and I thank you. Just wanted to add that there are many, many different words for farmer and having the Thode dictionary is very important.


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