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The agricultural industry used to provide jobs for a majority of men, as well as much work for women. It is hardly surprising therefore that many people on my tree were involved in the industry. Most numerous are agricultural labourers, but there are others whose roles were described more precisely e.g. as shepherds, and there are also farmers, yeomen and husbandmen. Partly this obviously reflects different social standing, but the chance of finding those who farmed in their own right rather than as labourers employed by others varies with time and location, since the size of farms, and the proportion who farmed land they owned, leased or rented and the proportion who laboured for others has varied over the centuries, as well as in different parts of the country.


Wrightson (Earthly Necessities, p 34) says that

Yeomen were sometimes defined as owner-occupiers possessing freehold land to the value of at least 40 shillings a year. [me – when? what was 40/- then worth in today’s terms?] In practice, however, a yeoman was simply a substantial farmer, whatever his mode of tenure, one who was in a positioin to produce a considerable marketable surplus over and above the needs of his family, and usually a regular employer of non-family labour. Yeomen were the ‘cocks of the parish’.

Example of a yeoman ancestor: Edward Springfield (definition from his will)


Again quoting Wrightson (Earthly Necessities, p 34),

husbandmen were small farmers, generally with a holding capable of supporting a family and producing a modest surplus in most years, and relying for the most part on family labour.

Example of a husbandman ancestor: Richard and John Goatham (definition from leases of land to them – and from wills? – others eg Burmarsh John?)

Devon examples – South Hams situation ???



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