Monday, September 3, 2018

The Work of My Ancestors

I'm thinking of my ancestors on this Labor Day.  They worked most days of their lives while today most of us have had a day of leisure.  I liked this quote by D. Todd Christofferson suggesting the need for both. 
Just as honest toil gives rest its sweetness, wholesome recreation is the friend and steadying companion of work.

In honor of this year's holiday I compiled a list of occupations, professions, and employment of my ancestors through my great-great-grandparents.  It was interesting to see the collective results of the list.

Lee Doyle, 1913-1987:  coal miner, farmer, steel mill worker, insurance salesman, clock repairer and jeweler, clock builder, handyman
Audrey (Meinzen) Doyle, 1915-1997:  nurse, house keeper

Gust Doyle, 1888-1933:  farmer, coal miner
Beulah Mae (Gerner) Doyle, 1888-1913:  milliner, house keeper

W. C. Robert Meinzen, 1892-1979:  barber, electrician
Emma (Bickerstaff) Meinzen, 1893-1973:  house keeper

William Doyle, 1863-1941:  coal miner, farmer
Tressa (Froman) Doyle, 1867-1936:  house keeper

Frederick K. Gerner, ~1848-1926:  farmer
Elvira (Bartley) Gerner, 1954-1943:  house keeper, midwife

Henry Carl Meinzen, 1837-1926:  carpenter, gardener, confectionery shop owner
Elizabeth (Armitage) Meinzen, 1852-1920:  house keeper

Edward Jesse Bickerstaff, 1871-1945:  carpenter
Mary (Thompson) Bickerstaff:  1872-1940:  house keeper

Andrew Doyle, 1836-1908:  coal miner, grocer
Elizabeth (Laws) Doyle, 1845-1910:  house keeper

John Froman, 1841-1871:  coal miner
Catherine (Saylor) Froman, 1844-1928:  house keeper

Christian Gerner, ~1820-1899:  farmer
Elizabeth (Stahl?) Gerner, uncertain dates:  house keeper

Dixon Bartley, ~1806-1900:  farmer, wagon maker
Rebecca (Smith) Bartley, 1820-1899:  house keeper

Abel Armitage, 1821- after 1881:  coal miner
Eliza (Hartley) Armitage, 1813-1856:  house keeper

Ellis H. Bickerstaff, 1840-1907:  carpenter
Virginia (Nelson) Bickerstaff, ~1846-1878:  house keeper

John Thomas Thompson, ~1850-1923:  laborer
Lydia (Bell) Thompson, 1851-1930:  keeping home

Except for a smattering of other occupations, the work of my male ancestors generally falls into two major categories:

     >  those who provided food, the farmers, and
     >  those who provided fuel, the coal miners
It's interesting to me that one group worked in the light of day, the other group worked below ground in the darkness of the earth.  What a contrast!

Of course all of my female ancestors were homemakers at least part of their lives.  I believe women get short shrift when it comes to the work of keeping a home.  Their work was different than those of the men and had more variety throughout a day or season but was no less laborious.  And the hours were often longer, at least in days of yore before labor-saving conveniences.

I hope you have or had a great Labor Day.


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  1. I enjoyed reading your ancestor's occupations. We all should compile a list like this, I think I personally would appreciate things more.

    1. Thanks, Robin. I often think about my foremothers and the work they had to do -- and wonder how they accomplished everything they did without the blessings of electricity, automobiles, electronics, running water.... The list could go on and on!


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