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Labourer or farmer

  • #1
    Registered Users Posts: 477 ✭✭ Garlinge

    I think there was a reason why a person put labourer down as occupation even though they were head of a household with farm but I cant remember! I am referring to rural Ireland 1890's and by census time they put 'farmer'. Something to do with rates/taxation?


  • Maybe the person went from renting or working for their father/mother to owning? Maybe two different people gave or recorded the info and wrote what they thought themselves?

  • I've seen some examples of the same person being designated farmer or labourer at different times. One can also see from censuses that in many cases when a farmer's son got married and stayed in the home place, some or all of his siblings left home. So a brother who might call himself a farmer up to then might go and work as a labourer. If he goes on to rent or own even a small amount of land he could call himself a farmer, even if only part-time. In the cases that I came across there was a lot of moving from place to place, so people may have been able to "reinvent themselves".

  • In my case it was the occupation given on the birth register of his children even tho he was the head of household of a farm that was three generations in the family. I suspect the 1901 census was filled out by his wife and 1911 by the enumerator and both described him as a 'farmer'.

  • Would it depend on who filled it out ?

    Most likely the registrar (for civil regs) or the officiating priest (baptism ,marriage )would have filled out the details so perhaps they put down what they considered the correct occupation .

    In the census case they or a family member may have filled in the details .The distinction between being a farmer or a labourer was a very grey area I would imagine in many cases where people had 10/15 acres of rented land but maybe worked on a part time basis for a larger farmer .

    On the other hand the social status of being considered (or considering yourself ) a farmer would have been and in some cases still is ,very important in rural Ireland .Start a thread on the Farming Board here regarding part time/fulltime farmers and see the reaction .

    In my own family tree research see people described as farmers and labourers alternately .Wouldn't read too much into it really .

  • The father registered the birth of the children and he was described as not being able to read/write in the 1901/1911 census. Also the wrong date for his first child was put on the birth cert. It was two days off. That child went on to have a son born on his own birthday so that is how the mistake has been remembered down the generations. I suppose they were given a copy when they registered a birth. I thought I read there was some advantage (tax?) for not being a farmer hence labourer was commonly used instead.

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  • I cannot see why being described as a labourer and/or farmer would have had any implications from a financial point of view especially in the late 19th century .

    The vast vast majority of farmers ,even substantial ones ,were renting their land rather than freeholders .

    Think it would be more from a social standing point of view and perceived position in the community that a distinction would be important to some .

    Had a look at my own family here at home on 1901 census .

    My great grandfather is head of household.His sons are listed as farmers sons whilst his nephew who was working alongside them was a farm labourer even though his father (my great grandfathers brother )would have been farming a substantially larger piece of land at the time with his own sons .A sister to the farm labourer (ie niece to my great grandfather ) was also living there in both 1901 and 1911 .On 1901 census she is farmers daughter whilst in 1911 her occupation is simply farmer .

    Can't imagine they would have envisaged the census returns etc being looked at 100 years later .Like us ticking a box on an online form for occupation on say an insurance application .

  • I wouldn't be so quick to presume he put the wrong date...I've said before, people were not as precise in the past. They didn't need to be.

    Couldn't count the number of times that baptisms took place before the date on the official birth certificate, or the information didn't match in some other way.

    Also remember that if someone was illiterate, they were not able to confirm the information they provided was written done verbatim.

    Genealogy Forum Mod

  • Yes I rechon he did not check the cert when it was registered or may have given wrong information... it was dated over 3 weeks later. I think the baptism record has the correct date. His wife was the brighter one, could read and write and I suspect filled out the 1901 census as handwriting different from that of enumerator but his name put at bottom as signature.