Saturday, 24 August 2013

My ancestor was . . . baker

A medieval baker with his apprentice (Image link:, Scanned from Maggie Black's 
"Den medeltida kokboken", Swedish translation of 
The Medieval Cookbook, ISBN 91-7712-380-8, 
accessed 8th Feb 2014)
A baker is one of the oldest trades in history and is mentioned in Genesis in the Bible. They were very prestigious tradesmen and have always been in high demand.

A baker is someone who makes, bakes and sells, bread, cookies, pastries, biscuits, rolls, cakes and crackers which required an oven to be cooked in.

There are different types of bakers:

  • Brown bakers who produce coarser bread from barley, rye and buckwheat
  • White bakers who produce goods with white flour.
  • Pastry chef who would make cakes and pastries.
  • Confectioner would maker products rich in sugar.

Molten-centred Chocolate Cupcakes

In the past some bakers would hire out their ovens to the general public to cook their own bread, as few houses had ovens until the late 19th century.

Work was long and exhausting for a baker. They would work long days, making the dough overnight to bake ready for their customers in the early morning. It was physically demanding with the heavy mixing and kneading.

(Image link:, Author: Klaus Hopfner,
2 April 2007, accessed 8th Feb 2014

It was reasonably common for a baker to also have a secondary business as a miller, corn & meal seller, yeast dealer, confectioner or even a publican who had a public oven as well as a public house.

A bakers life expectancy was much shorter as they spent most of their life breathing in flour dust which caused nasty lung diseases.

There were many a dishonest baker who would steal dough from people who brought in their own dough to be baked. The baker would steal the dough to make their own loaves which they would later sell. They would also be known to sell underweight loaves which is where the term "a baker's dozen" comes from. If a baker was caught selling underweight produce the punishment could be harsh so bakers began adding an extra loaf to the dozen to make sure they could not be punished.

Information from: Your Family Tree magazine Issue 126 (March 2013)
Wikipedia - Baker

Copyright © 2013 Ruth Hogan


  1. Welcome to Geneabloggers!!

    Regards, Grant

  2. Yes, I can relate. I worked full time to fund my hobby as well. lol! Love family history.

    Regards, Grant

  3. Welcome to the Geneablogging community! This is such a great blog Ruth. My ancestors were bakers but I didn't realise all this stuff about them until I read your blog. Thanks :)

  4. I have just started dabbling in baking myself so it was interesting to read some of the history of the trade. Thanks for the post!