As I traveled up the Tapply tree, I found that my ancestors in that line were solidly tradespeople. There were grocers, butchers, a spice merchant, a linen draper and a cordswainer. A what? Well that's where this resource supplied by Crista is a great resource. But I noticed a few things as I examined the old census records for John Tappley. John was my 3X great grandfather who lived in Wittersham, Kent, England. In the 1841 census we see this:
The 1851 Kent Directory of Occupations lists him the same way:
However, by 1851 there are only two other men listed in Wittersham doing this job. Shoemaking as a handcraft was a dying profession. I looked up information on the Industrial Revolution and found this:
"Lyman Reed Blake was an American inventor who invented a sewing machine for sewing the soles of shoes to the uppers. In 1858, he received a patent for his specialized sewing machine."
So the hand-sewing of shoes was probably on the wain by this time. The 1851 census shows the Tapply family like this:
And this is where I first ran into the term master cordwainer. He had become experienced enough to earn this extra title and had one apprentice and one journeyman working with him. I was still curious about what separated a shoemaker from a cordwainer.
A little more searching on the internet gave me this distinction:
A cobbler or shoemaker might make the simple clogs and everyday shoes or perhaps do repairs; only the cordwainer could handle the fine leather.
John Tapply would most probably have belonged to a local guild centered out of Maidstone or Canterbury that regulated the men of his trade. I haven't found those records yet. But I found the contemporary counterparts still making fine shoes in London.
The Worshipful Company of Cordswainers is still making the very finest high end shoes. Should you find that your cordwainer ancestor lived in London, they might have those records in their archives.
I love this photo of the contemporary cordswainers in all their ceremonial regalia.
This is why you should always take the time to look carefully at census records. You never know what new things you can learn about your ancestor.