Gene Notes

Some random and some not-so-random thoughts on family history.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Handy Occupations, the Other Side

A while back I talked about how my previous jobs of medical secretary and library clerks prepared me for family research.

In going through the census, I have made note of some of the occupations of these people who came before.

In my own immediate family, my dad was a janitor at the Catholic Church and school we all attended. Some of us even worked there as temps, part time employees or full time employees. My dad was the ultimate handyman. I am sure he could have gotten work as an electrician and been licensed to do that, but he liked to do all kinds of different stuff. When he retired, that is what he did - handyman jobs.

My paternal grandfather was a civil engineer and worked for the City of Detroit until they forced him to retire circa early 1960's. His father was more like my dad, trained to work with tin, with plumbing, he partnered in a hardware store.

My maternal grandfather was a day laborer. His father was a farmer and onetime sawyer.

We have the usual farmers, doctors, dentists, carpenters, lawyers, merchants, but I've come across a few that really tickled my fancy.

Stage driver. This was in New York State in the years between 1850 and 1870. Harness makers and liverymen. Pretty self explanatory. I have in my Percival line blacksmiths all the way back to the 1670's. Not every generation, but you had to be pretty handy in those days if you wanted to keep your farm going. The last blacksmith I found in our line was Jabez Percival, who apprenticed under his uncle Joseph Oliver. Jabez ended up a partner in the Percival Iron Works in Los Angeles, California. Jabez died in 1896.

If you throw in the bank president, painter, servants and clerks, you see how rounded they become. There is a smattering of milliners, dressmakers, nurses and teachers on the female side, not to mention librarians.

The four that were really memorable were:

The beer truck driver in upstate New York. Not sure if he had been drinking on the job or not, but in 1932 he lost control and crashed and rolled his beer truck. He died a few days later.
The gentleman who went from being a lawyer to a Capitalist to a dry good merchant. By the time he died, he had no living descendants, so he left his money to a nephew who was a traveling salesman.

Then there was the family of jewelers in Boston. There were at least 3 generations of them, some of them Harvard graduates.

But being the chocoholic that I am - I would have like to known the confectioner!

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