In the course of genealogy you may come across jobs that you don’t know what they are. It may be that they were not uncommon, it’s just that they no longer exist for what ever reason.
So what were some of these jobs?
Well one I’m glad doesn’t exist anymore is a knocker up. I have nothing against the people who had this occupation, it was just what they did. A knocker up was someone who you paid to wake you up in the mornings. They were a human alarm clock. In the industrial towns it was important that you got to work on time. If you didn’t you may be expected to work the entire day for no pay. This meant it was vital to get to work on time. So you paid a knocker up, probably only a penny or two a week, to wake you up. They used various methods from knocking on the house door to using a long bamboo stick to tap on your bedroom window. One lady in London even used a pea shooter to aim at the windows to wake people up.
Another job that’s gone is that of a lamp lighter. We all take for granted that when dusk comes the street lights come on automatically and then go off in the morning. In the Victorian era this wasn’t the case. People’s job was to go round lighting the gas lamps in the streets and then putting them out in the mornings. They were imaginatively named. Now they’d probably be known as illumination specialists or something. But they did a really vital job. Can you image walking the streets of Whitechapel in the 1880’s without the gas lamps, it was dangerous enough without it being dark as well.
Another job which technology got rid of was the type setter. Before the advent of typewriters if you wanted to print something you had to load the individual letters into a holder to produce the page you wanted. This was a highly skilled job as you had to put everything in the holder backwards and led to the phrase getting hold of the wrong end of the stick, as if you started from the wrong end then the text came out back to front. Also the person doing the job had to be literate. Imagine if someone wanted a book printed, you would have to place each letter by had until you had a page and then print the page and then do the next page and so on.
Going further back in time some of the jobs were just horrible and thankfully they have gone in this country.
How would you fancy being a leech collector? Doctors were using leeches to bleed their patients as they felt this would keep them healthy. So they needed leeches to use. People would go to the marshy areas where the leeches lived and catch them. They didn’t use a net. It they were canny they used an old animal. They would stand them in the marsh and take the leeches of the animal’s legs. It they couldn’t afford an animal they used themselves! They stood there and let the leeches attach to them and then pulled them off when they’d had their fill after about 20 minutes. They probably continued to bleed for several hours after so it wasn’t a particularly healthy occupation.
The final job we should all be thankful has gone was that of a gong farmer. They had the nastiest jobs ever. They dug out, buy hand, the cesspits and the toilets. They would remove the waste and take it away. That is a job no one should have had to do. But it did have some advantages. If anything went down the loo that shouldn’t have they could keep it. Also they were paid quiet well as well you would have to be to do the job.
So our ancestry is full of different jobs to those were do now, but really would you want to do some of them. Getting up early in the morning to wake people up or spending all night digging in poop. Sounds like having kids to me! But for society to function they were needed.
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my Family History Ramblings on genealogy and history in general. I hope you find it informative and hopefully funny!