In every generation there are those members of society who have unusual jobs. They may seem strange to us when we find them in the census but in the past they were could have been more common or even usual then.
So I’ve look through my tree and found you four people who had the most usual or less common jobs I could find.
I’d like to start with one of our family’s war heroes, James Briggs who was my great, great Grandma’s second son. James was born in Thorpe St Andrew in 1892 and died in 1917 in Belgium while fighting in WW1. Now James had a very important job for the company he worked for. James made the packaging for the company. He made the tins at the Colman’s mustard factory in Norwich, Norfolk. Now in the grand scheme of things this wasn’t an important job, but you have to admit it was unusual outside of Norwich.
Also in my family my 4 times great Grandad Enoch Goodwin was a toll keeper in Bosley Cheshire. My great, great Grandad Frederick Staton was a Professor of music at Worksop Priory in Nottinghamshire and I even have a dog track owner/bookie. My great Grandma’s brother owned and ran the greyhound track in the Darnall area of Sheffield and on the 1939 census he was recorded as a commission agent i.e. a book maker.
If you go through your family tree your bound to find someone who had an unusual job. They may have worked in industries that we are familiar with and even still exist but the role they carried out many not exist anymore and thus seem strange to us. So working in a coal mine may be a common job, but how many looked after the pit ponies?
One of the grossest unusual jobs was a resurrectionist, which thankfully doesn’t exist anymore. Now many will have no idea what this is and to be honest I didn’t know what it was. Once you read about it you will probably know 2 very famous ressurrectionists, Burke and Hare.
So what is a resurrectionist? Well in laymen’s terms it’s a body snatcher. Medical students needed bodies to dissect to understand how the human body worked. Unfortunately this was illegal unless the person had been executed. So since a dead body was not classed as belonging to anyone, you could theoretically take the body from a grave as long as you didn’t take any valuables from the body. Also the medical schools didn’t like to ask too many questions as to where the bodies were coming from.
So you have ressurectionists. Burke and Hare took it a step to far though. When they couldn’t get enough bodies they decided to kill people to get the bodies. They then sold these bodies to the medical school in Edinburgh. They were doing this in the 1820’s. They were eventually arrested and imprisoned. William Hare was released from prison after turning Kings Evidence (admitting he did it and informing on his accomplice). William Burke though, well he was tried and executed. Then he was dissected and if you want to see his skeleton it’s in the anatomical museum in Edinburgh and a book bound with his skin is in the surgeon’s museum.
So there were loads of unusual and strange jobs that our ancestors could have done for a living, but is it any stranger than today? If you think about it anyone in the future who looks back at my life if going to think I had a strange job and wonder what a genealogist was.
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings on genealogy and history in general. I hope you find it informative and hopefully funny!