Saturday, August 23, 2008

French-to-English Translations of the Occupations Recorded in Genealogy Records Before 1775

It is surprising to discover how many occupations were recorded in French genealogical records.

The most common occupation was that of farmer. Most people had to produce the food they needed for their large families because transportation across the country was primitive by today's standards. Transportation across the land was done with horses or on foot, and that on inland water done by canoe along with portage because the main waterways, like the St Lawrence River, often had rapids. Trade across the ocean was practically slow since all carrying was done by ships whose power source was wind.

The earliest occupation was that of soldier. The first French men sent to Canada were soldiers whose mission it was to keep other countries' kings from claiming the land for themselves and keeping foreigners out.

But in addition to the job of farmer and soldier, there were a large number of specialized occupations as well. There were no factories. Everything had to be made by hand on an individual basis. Goods required local craftsman and tradespeople.

It's not always easy to find out what those occupations actually were, so this listing is provided here to help. It is a list of all the professions that people recorded, on census, marriage and death records, that men and women had before 1775. The French listing of jobs held by every man, where the information was available, was drafted in 1798, and is translated and resorted alphabetically by me here.

Kinds of Work Related Words:

labeur = labour
métier [met!] = trade, craft
oeuvre = a work
ouvrage = work
occupation = occupation
professionel = professional
travail = work; labour


Most frequent:

fermier = farmer
soldat = soldier


acteur = actor
administrateur (noble and non-noble) = director, manager; trustee, administrator
anspessade =
apothicaire = apothecary
apprenti = apprentice
architecte = architect
armurier = armourer or gunsmith
arpenteur = land-surveyor
arquebusier = arquebusier, harquebusier (?)
aubergiste = innkeeper; landlord
avocat = lawyer
bailli = bailliff
banquier = banker
bêcheur = digger (agriculture)
bedeau = beadle, verger (?)
berger = shepherd; pastor
beurier = butter maker or butter-man
blanchisseur = launderer, washerman
bonnetier = hosier (textiles)
brasseur = brewer (of beer)
briquetier = brick-maker
brocheur = sewer of books
boucher = butcher
boulanger = baker
bourgeois = burgess; citizen, middle-class person
boutonnier = button-maker (of metal)
braconnier = poacher
bucheron = wood-cutter, woodman, lumberjack, lumberman
cabaretier = publican
cantinier = (military) canteen-keeper; sutler
calfat = caulker
canonnier = gunner (maker of cannon stuff because cat as metal artisan)
capitaine = (military) captain; (nautical) master mariner, deep-sea captain (of ocean-going merchantman or ship); lieutenant-commander (of corvette); commander (of frigate); harbour-master (of port); captain (of ship); skipper, maser (of merchant ship)
caporal = (military) corporal; (commerce) caporal (tobacco)
cardeur = carder (textiles)
cardinal = (ecclesiastic) cardinal
chamoiseur = not sure...something to do with chamois or shammy-leather
chanteur = singer
chantre = (ecclesiastic) singer or cantor
chapelier = hatter
chandelier = (ecclesiastic) candlemas
charbonnier = charcoal burner (maker of charcoal of wood); coal-heaver; coal-merchant, coal-dealer, coalman (merchant); (nautical) coaler
charcutier = pork-butcher
charretier = carrier, carter, carman
charpentier = carpenter
charpentier de navire = ship carpenter
charron = cartwright, wheelwright
chasseur = hunter, huntsmant; trapper; page-boy, messenger-boy, commissionaire, bell-boy, bellhop; (military) (with alpin) alpine troops, mountain light infantryman; (nautical) chaser
chaudronnier = coppersmith, tinsmith, brazier
chaufournier = not sure {chauffeur = stoker, fireman; chauffeur, driver}
chef de bataillon = (military) major, battalion chief
chirurgien-major = surgeon
chirurgine {chirurgienne = female surgeon}
clerc = clerk (of lawyer)
clergé = (ecclesiastic) clergy, priest
cloutier = nail-maker, nail-merchant
cocher = coachman; cabman, cab-driver
coiffeur = barber
colon = colonist, settler, planter
colonel = (military) colonel
commandant = (military) commandant, major; (nautical) captain (grade) {commandeur = commandant also but not found in documents}
commerçant = tradesman, trader {see marchand = merchant also}
commis = clerk, salesman
commissaire des vivres = commissary (delegated), steward; (juridicious) commissioner; (military) prosecutor; (nautical) average surveyor, paymaster, purser
comptable = accountant, book-keeper
contracteur = contractor
contrebandier = smuggler
contremaitre = foreman, overseer, ganger; boatswain's mate
copiste = copyist
cordier = rope-maker
cordonnier = shoe-maker, boot-maker, cobbler
corroyeur = currier, leather dresser
courrant des bois = hunter in the woods {coureur = runner}
courrier = courrier, messenger
couseur = sewer
coutelier = cutler
couvreur = slater (in slate); thatcher (in thatch); tiler (in tiles) (roofer?)
cuisinier = cook, chef
cultivateur = farmer, cultivator
debardeur = docker, stevedore
défricheur = clearer; pioneer; explorer (of land)
dentiste = dentist
directeur d'entreprise = director, manager, president of enterprise
distillateur = distiller (modern word)
distilleur =distiller (word found in records)
docteur en medecine = doctor, physician
douanier = custom-house officer
drapier = draper
draveur =
ébéniste = cabinet-maker
échevin = alderman
écuyer = esquire; squire, armour-bearer; carver (tranchant); rider, horseman
éleveur = farmer (of bees, furry animals), breeder, stockbreeder
enseignant = teacher
enseigne = (military) ensign; (nautical) sub-lieutenant
esclave = slave
évèque = bishop
fabricant d'armes = maker of arms (metal-work)
fabricant de tabac = tobacco maker
facteur = maker; carman, carrier; postman
faiseur d'avirons = maker of oars
farinier = flour-merchant
fendeur de bois = splitter of wood
ferblantier = tinsmith, tinman or merchant of tinware
fermier = farmer; tenant-farmer; crofter
fifre = fife-player, fifer (artist)
fileur = spinner (of threads)
fondeur = founder (of metals like bronze), caster (of metals)
forgeron = blacksmith
fourbisseur d'épée = refurbisher of swords
fourrier = (military) quarter-master sergeant
fourreur = furrier
fraudeur = defrauder; smuggler
fromager = cheese-maker; cheese-monger, cheese-dealer
garçon de service = boy in service
garde = guardian, watchman, keeper, warden
garde-magasin = warehouseman
gardeur = keeper; preserver; herder
gardien = guardian; keeper; protector
garnisson = (military) garrison
geolier = jailer
gouverneur = governor
grand prévot = grand-provost
greffier = town-clerk, recorder, registrar; clerk
habitant = settler, planter (agriculture)
homme de peine = labourer
horloger = clock-maker
horticulteur = horticulturist
hotelier = {owner of hotel or hostel}
huissier = usher
imprimeur = printer (of books, cloth, metal)
ingénieur = engineer
inpecteur = inspector
instituteur = founder, institutor (of hospital, etc...); school-teacher, school-master
interprete = interpreter
jardinier = gardener
journaliste = journalist
juge = judge
laboureur = laborer (of agriculture)
laitier = milkman, dairy man
libraire = bookseller; bookstall attendant
lieutenant = (military) lieutenant; (nautical) lieutenant, lieutenant-commander
lieutenant-colonel = (military) lieutenant-colonel
lieutenant-major = (military) lieutenant-major
lieutenant-aide-major = (military) lieutenant-major-aide???
maçon = mason, brick-layer
maître = teacher
maître-couturier = couturier, ladies' tailor
maitre d'armes = master or chief of arms
maitre de barque = master of barge or small boat
maître d'école = teacher
majeur = major
majeur de la garnisson = major of the garrison
manufacturier = manufacturer, mill-owner
maraicher = market-gardener
marbrier = marble-cutter
marchand = dealer, tradesman, merchant; shopkeeper
marchand de nouveauté = merchant of fancy goods (linen, drapery)
{marechal = (military) marshall}
marechal des logis = (military) cavalry or artillery sergeant
marechal-ferrant = blacksmith, farrier (tied to horseshoeing)
marguillier = (ecclesiastic) churchwarden
{marteleur = hammersmith, hammerman}
mécanicien = mechanic, mechanical engineer
mégissier = tawer, leather-dresser
mendiant = beggar
menuisier = joiner, carpenter
messager = messenger
meunier = miller (food)
milicien = (military) militia man
militaire = (military) military man, serviceman, soldier
mineur = miner, collier
modiste = milliner, modiste
mousse = (nautical) ship's boy, deck-boy
musicien = musician
navigateur = (nautical) navigator, sailor
négociant = wholesale dealer or merchant; wholesaler
nettoyeur = cleaner
noblesse = nobility
(administrateurs) noble = noble, nobleman {the weighty}
notable =
nourrice = nurse, wet-nurse - move
orfèvre = goldsmith
ouvrier métallurgiste = metal-worker
palefrenier = stableman, groom, ostler
passeur = ferryman
patissier = pastry-cook
peaussier = skin-dresser
pêcheur = fisherman
peigneur = wool-comber (textiles)
peintre = painter (art)
peintre en batiment = painter of buildings
pelletier = furrier
perruquier = wig-maker or barber
pharmacien = chemist, druggist
pilote = (nautical) pilot {see timonier}
plombier = plumber, lead-worker
poigneur = {poignee = handle}
pompier = fireman
porcher = swine-herd, swine-keeper
porte-cassette = not sure
postier = post-office employee
postillon = not sure
potier = potter (clay, metal0
poudrier = not sure, possibly gunpowder maker
poullieur = not sure
prêtre = priest
prisonnier = prisonner
ramoneur = chimney-sweep, sweep
receveur general = receiver-general, collector-general
religieux (se) = (ecclesiastic) monk; also other religious people
reporter = reporter
relieur = bookbinder (metal work artisan)
roulier = haulier, carrier, waggoneer
sabotier = sabot-maker
saunier = salt-maker
savetier = cobbler (shoe-maker)
secretaire = secretary
seigneur = lord, master, noble; owners of manors or seignory
senechal = seneschal
sergent = sergeant
sergent-major = (military) quartermaster-sergeant
scieur de long = pit-sawyer
scieur de pierre = sawyer of stone, rock cutter
sculpteur = sculptor (of rock, wood)
sellier = saddler, harness-maker
serger (something to do with twill in textile)
serrurier = locksmith
soldat = soldier
sous-lieutenant = (military) second-lieutenant
sous-officier = (military) non-commissioned officer
syndic = syndic
taillandier = edge-tool maker
tailleur = tailor {see couturier); banker; (agriculture) cutter, pruner
tailleur de pierre =cutter of precious stones, hewer of stone
tailleur d'habit = suit tailor, man's tailor
tambour = drummer
tanneur = tanner
tapissier = upholsterer or tapestry-maker or tapestry-merchant (tapis also means carpet)
teinturier = dyer; dyer and cleaner
timonier = (nautical) helmsman, man at wheel, steersman; signal man
tireur de laine = wool puller
tisserand = weaver (of fabric)
tisseur = weaver (of fabric)
tissier = not in my dictionary, but must be related to woven material
tondeur = shearer (of cloth, sheep) or clipper (of animals)
tonnelier = cooper (wood)
tourneur = turner, lathe-worker
traitant = medical practicioner {usually with medecin}
traiteur = eating-house or restaurant keeper
transporteur = transporter, carrier
trappeur = trapper
travaillant = worker, labourer
trompette = trumpeter
typographe = printer
vacher = cowherd, cow-keeper
vagabond = vagabond, vagrant, tramp
valet = man-servant, valet, groom, stable-lad or ostler, farmhand, footman
vanneur = (agriculture) winnower, sifter; (technical) vanner
vannier = basket-maker or basket-worker
{vendeur = seller; (commerce) vendor; salesman; shopman; shop-assistant, counterhand; salesclerk}
vendeur d'animaux = seller of animals
vigneron = vine-grower
vinaigrier = vinegar-maker; vinegar-merchant
vitrier = glazier; window-glass maker
voilier = (technical) sail-maker
voiturier = carrier, carter
voyageur = traveller; passenger; (commercial) commercial traveller

Master tradesmen are also recorded as such in the records. The French word "maître-" is placed in front of the profession to designate a master-craftsman.

For example, a master-carpenter would be recorded as maître-charpentier.

The French king was not in France, but this lists French occupations related to him:

page = page
prince = prince
princesse = princess
reine = queen
roi = king
roy = king


bonne = maid
chanteuse = singer
dame de compagnie = female companion
domestique = maid
gouvernante = governess or housekeeper
infirmière = nurse
intendante de maison du seigneur ou bourgeois = manager of house of lord
maîtresse = teacher
sage-femme = midwife
servante = servant
soeur = nun, sister
suivante, maitre d'hotel = maid of hotel