Friday, 18 July 2014

Balancing the Books - the finances of an agricultural labourer

Another short article from three years ago, which first appeared on my Walking in Eternity blog. This time it looks at a useful resource, the Statistical Accounts of Scotland, and an entry found within them that sheds light on the finances of those with the humblest of occupations, the 'ag lab', or agricultural labourer...

Balancing the books

Ever wondered what our ancestors earned? The following is an example of an agricultural labourer's income and expenditure, as recorded in the First Statistical Account for Auchterarder in Perthshire, in the 1790s. The family consisted of a husband and wife, and seven children:

INCOME
Man - 1s. per day for 8 months, and 8d for remainder........£13 17 0

Mother and eldest girl by spinning, 1s 6d per week.............£3 18 0
Eldest boy herding cattle.......................................................£0 18 0
Produce of his acre of ground-
6 firlots of oats, at 13s 6d.....................................................£1 0 3
4 bolls of barley, at 14s.........................................................£2 16 0
6 bolls of potatoes, at 6s 6d..................................................£1 6 0
Sold a calf..............................................................................£0 7 0
TOTAL INCOME..................................................................£24 2s 3d

EXPENDITURE
Rent of house and land, seed & management....................£4 5 0
Cow's grass in summer, 10s; straw in winter 6s................£0 16 0
Fuel, £1 5s; 8 lbs soap, 4s 8d................................................£1 9 8
8 1/2 bolls of oatmeal............................................................£6 3 3
4 bolls of barley meal............................................................£1 17 4
Butcher meat, 18s; 4 pks salt 3s 4d....................................£1 1 4
3 pints lamp oil, 3s 6d; candles 2s 2d..................................£0 5 8
2 stones cheese (cow yielded milk and butter).....................£0 8 0
Molasses for beer, 4s 6d; groats & barley 7s.......................£0 11 6
Potatoes produced and consumed.......................................£1 6 0
Whisky, small beer, & wheaten bread at New Year.............£0 3 4
Needles, pins, and thread.....................................................£0 0 10
Expenses in sickness.............................................................£0 15 0
Father's clothes 10s; 2 shirts, 7s; shoes 10s......................£1 7 0
2 pairs stockings 4s 6d; wear of bonnet & kerchief..............£0 5 6
Mother's clothes 4s; 1 shift, 2s 6d; 2 aprons 2s 3d...............£0 8 9
Shoes and stockings 4s; kerchief, cap, etc 3s.....................£0 7 0
Pair of shoes to each of 7 children........................................£0 14 2
Clothes to 3 youngest, 9s; to 2 next 8s; to 2 eldest 10s......£1 7 0
Shirts to youngest 2s; to 2 next 2s 6d; to 2 eldest 3s 4d.....£0 7 10
TOTAL EXPENDITURE........................................................£24 0s 2d

The Statistical Accounts of Scotland from the 1790s and 1830s/40s provide all sorts of useful information on the environments where our ancestors lived, and can be viewed freely at http://stat-acc-scot.edina.ac.uk/sas/sas.asp?action=public&passback=

Chris

Now available for UK research is the new second edition of the best selling Tracing Your Family History on the Internet: A Guide for Family Historians, whilst my new book British and Irish Newspapers is also now out. And FindmyPast - please reinstate the original Scottish census citations on your new site.

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