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Below is an excerpt from an 1860 US Census record for Wheeling, (West) Virginia.

What is the occupation listed at the bottom?

The first letter looks like an M, and the last three look like 'der'. Wheeling at this time was an industrial city and had many iron foundries and other manufacturing. I suspect this could be a specialist occupation, or just sloppy handwriting.

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A Moulder is somebody who makes moulds for metal casting; it was (and is) a skilled job.

In cases like this, it can help to search for contemporary documentation on the census, such as this analysis of the results which shows that molder was an occupation recorded.

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  • I didn't actually need to look this up -- my sister's father in law was a sand-casting moulder.
    – user6485
    Feb 3, 2021 at 15:41
  • I've found moulders in records I'm researching, also.
    – shoover
    Feb 3, 2021 at 15:50
  • @ColeValleyGirl Perfect! Thanks for your insight. The answer to my question is 'both'- a specialist occupation and sloppy handwriting.
    – user5836
    Feb 3, 2021 at 15:56
  • @user5836 Actually, the handwriting isn't too bad, and moulder wasn't that uncommon an occupation back then. The issue was probably that you didn't know that there was such an occupation, so you couldn't recognise the word.
    – user6485
    Feb 3, 2021 at 15:58
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    @shoover I was contrasting it with handwriting I've seen in other documents, which would have been bad for their time when this wasn't.
    – user6485
    Feb 4, 2021 at 6:51

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