By Shannon Bennett, Student
Do you ever read something and feel your head getting full? That feeling of “oh no, this is a lot of stuff, how am I ever going to remember it all?” Well, that’s the feeling I have right now after finishing the next section of the English: Occupation-Professions and Trades course.
Vinters Hall. Wikimedia Commons. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:VintersHall_2.jpg
This last week I learned more than I ever knew about associations. What are associations you ask? Well, there were three main types we studied: guilds and livery companies, trade unions, and professional associations. I thought I knew what the last two were, but I was wrong. However, I didn't know anything about guilds and livery companies.
I was really intrigued to learn about the livery companies of London. No, I don’t have ancestry from there (that I know of) and no, none of my ancestors were of those trades (once again, that I know of) but the history of those companies was simply fascinating.
Livery companies were guilds in the City of London known for their livery, or dress colors they wore, which represented the guild on state occasions. The members of the guild entitled to wear the colors were known as the “livery” opposed to the “freeman” who were waiting to be promoted to the livery as vacancies happened. It is important to note that livery companies were not found outside of London. These organizations in other cities or boroughs were known as guilds when located outside of the City.
We learned about other membership levels, how the guilds were structured, the way they evolved from medieval times to the 20th century, and what resources for research are key for genealogical research. It was dense reading but very interesting and very informative. Really makes me wish I knew more about my English ancestors so that I had an excuse to delve further into these records.
The next modules are going to cover details pertaining to specific types of occupations and where researchers could find information on them. I am looking forward to this. Social history is one of the interesting topics for me and since I am an American I am sure there will be things listed that I had no idea about.