Press Release - 19 November 2012

Was your ancestor paid to be a snob?

Modern professions really differ from those of our ancestors
Discover your ancestors’ jobs - Were they a ‘snob’ or a ‘devil’?
Millions of records added to show centuries of employment history

Records recently added to show that Australians have clearly not stepped into their ancestors’ footsteps when it comes to occupations. The 1911 England & Wales census on gives us insight into a variety of occupations that existed that we would not see in the recruitment pages today, including knockers-up, snobs, chocolate dippers, devils, hokey-pokey men, batman, bird boys and bondagers.

Travellers that came to Australia on passenger ships from Britain a century ago brought unique and specialist skills to our country. Interesting professions found in ship passenger lists in 1911 included a bacon curer, bone cutter, cheesemaker, chimney sweep, cigar maker, costumier, cricket bat maker, felt hatter, herbalist and lapidary specialist.

Vicki Dawson from, explains more about these lost occupations: “Despite what may come to mind, a ‘knocker up’ was somebody employed to give the alarm call to factory workers, and a ‘snob’ was a boot maker and repairer to the wealthy. A ‘batman’ is actually a personal servant of an army officer, not a caped crusading superhero. There may have been a need for more devils too, which are actually printer’s errand boys.”

Ship passenger lists show that labourers, domestic servants and railway workers were amongst the common skill sets arriving from Britain a century ago. These passenger lists on illustrate the roots of our varied heritage. The lists contain 24 million names across 1890-1960 and help many Australians bridge the gap between their Australian heritage and British roots.

According to Shauna Hicks, professional genealogist: “Passenger lists not only tell us the occupation our ancestors had, they tell us which ship they came out on and other details such as age, religion, place of origin, and the names of other family members. It is fascinating researching your family history and these are really important details to get you started. Imagine how challenging it must have been for them to make that huge decision to emigrate and undertake those lengthy voyages in what appear to be very small ships!" has recently re-launched their website, doubling its Australia / New Zealand collection. The 56 million new records expand the collection to over 135 million records, many of which cannot be found elsewhere online. The new World collection covers Australia, New Zealand, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and the United States and brings the total records available onsite to over 1.5 billion, making a major player in the genealogy industry.