52 Ancestors Week 36: Labor

+11 votes

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in The Tree House by Eowyn Walker G2G Astronaut (1.9m points)
My Great Great Grandfather, Doctor Peter James Parker, (Parker 29217) was a Civil War Veteran on the Confederate side, a Cavalry Officer in the Mississippi Army.  He was born in 1845 and lived until 1935.  After the War, his first wife died giving birth to his son, Ashley Stephens Parker.  Both he and his son became Medical Doctors, and lived long lives.  Early in the twentieth Century, he wrote a series of letters to a Grandson, Doctor Parker Hollingsworth, recounting his time in the Civil War, and his first marriage.

26 Answers

+10 votes
A good number of my ancestors, especially those from Devon and Cornwall, in England, were listed as Agricultural Labourers (aka Ag Lab) on the census records.

An agricultural labourer was one who tilled the soil, and/or worked on the land for a living.

Over 100 years ago, Agriculture was a labour intensive industry. Farmers required humans to till the land, sow seeds, harvest the crops and then do it all over again, year after year, no matter what the weather was like. The country needed food to eat. So it was necessary and safe. A life long job so to speak.

In the 20th century, and especially after World War 2, crops have been sown and harvested by machine, soil has been tilled by machines and some crops are now even harvested by machines.

The job title Agricultural Labourer is no longer in use. Indeed if any farms do require humans to harvest their crops, they are now forced to use foreign labour since harvesting does not always pay much these days.

Back in the 1980s, I spent 3 summers as an AG LAB - picking raspberries on a farm just outside of Nelson in NZ.

It was meant to be a means of making money and saving up a bit. But it turns out that I am not suited to the life style of an Ag Lab at all.

Simply put, I was hopelessly slow at picking raspberries. The number of buckets of raspberries I collected per day was considerably lower than the numbers of buckets that other people collected. The main reason is because we were standing for hours in the hot sun, searching through prickly branches looking for every last raspberry to grab.

I was having to stop every few minutes to drink some water. Summers in the Nelson region can be quite hot at times.

Since my output was low, I barely made enough money to cover my own food which I had to provide. The farm owner provided cabins for sleeping in, at no cost, but nothing else.

I do not envy the life of an Ag Lab at all!!
by Robynne Lozier G2G Astronaut (1.0m points)
This one made me laugh as I remembered the story of my Aunt. She was a difficult teen. She heard they were paying a high price per pound for picking hops (this was in the 30s). What she didn't know is hops are tiny and weigh nothing. She earned 2 cents for her days work. She never went back!
+8 votes
It maybe a little different answer than was anticipated ... but the word "Labor" brings to mind a constant battle between my grandfather, James "Jim" Sims (1889-1962), and my grandmother, Alice Elizabeth Drake-Sims (1892-1881).

GdPa was one of those people who was never on time for anything.  GdMa was one of those people who was always ahead of schedule.

I recall GdMa telling me that it all started at GdPa's birth ... he didn't arrive until 2 weeks after his due date ... and he kept my great-grandmother, Winnie Julina Tolly-Sims (1860-1929), in "labor" for almost 2 days.

So, GdPa just blamed his lack of concern for time on his mother's lack of timing!
by Bill Sims G2G6 Pilot (119k points)
Labor is labor - even during birth!!
+13 votes

My great grandmother, Elsie Kimball Morgan, https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Kimball-1977 had ten children on a farm.  She knew a lot about labor.  In her time, children went to work at 12, and she was sent to a cousin's house as a domestic.  Her cousin's husband was a medical doctor.  While I don't know that she had any formal nursing training from him, I know she had a natural affinity for nursing, and indeed, acted as a midwife many times, including for her own daughter.  She saved the life of my Aunt Ruthie when she realized the umbilical cord was around her neck at birth, and knew what to do.  Most of her 10 children were born in the 19th century in a time and place when many children died before they were 2 years old.  Grandma Elsie was always proud of the fact that she got to raise all her babies.  Although she herself did not have the chance to get an education beyond the graded school, she was a great reader.  Two of her daughters became nurses, as she could have done in a different time.  One of her granddaughters was a hospital administrator, and the granddaughter whose life she saved became a hospital dietician, and later a professor of what we would now call nutrition, then called home economics or dietetics.  This is some of the influence she had on her descendants, with her knowledge of medicine and wellness, and what we know as ob-gyn science.  What we are builds on who got us here, and I am grateful to my great grandma and her abilities with healthy births, for herself and others.

by Carolyn Adams G2G6 Mach 7 (79.6k points)
Carolyn,  My mother explained to me, at an early age, that my older brother didn't make it, because of the umbilical cord.....she wanted to call him..... Michael....so I did. The memory put me on early standby for our first born......luckily they just made it.
So in a way, your brother Michael saved your child.  Maybe that is a nice way to think about it.
Thankyou Carolyn,  They were twin girls.....my mother taught grades 1 and 2 in the annex and they were all her children.....then, she set up a room in her home and I could see she was in her glory.   And you know.....I just realized, now, that of the rhyming middle names one is Michelle.
Why choose your own answer as the best??
It was a mistake.  I don't know how to undo it.
Ah, something worked.  Back to ignominy.
Well done, Carolyn. Thanks for persisting.
+10 votes

As I look back at my ancestors, several were carpenters as well as farmers. I have thought that my second great grandfather  Edward Long and his brother Henry Long were especially interesting being in the carriage making business together. This is the obituary for Henry, who was very involved in making carriages for the Forepaugh Circus.

by Alexis Nelson G2G6 Pilot (576k points)

Alexis!  I just watched a carriage manufacturing (video) series in Montana, in the last year......fascinating!

Thank you John for your great comment; it certainly does sound interesting.
The 1st one I ever watched was the 1018 lb wagon wheel.
Thank You Alexia for sharing this article
+10 votes

2G Grandmother Jessie McIntosh went through labor at least 10 times, and all 10 of her children survived to adulthood.

by Dorothy O'Hare G2G6 Mach 6 (68.2k points)
Thank you for this, Dorothy.
+10 votes

My grandfather Stanislav Hakl was a machinist, and his work involved hard labor, both physical and mental. He came to the US from Russia in 1907 at age 18 and was supposed to return to finish his education. He never went back.  He did some pretty amazing things. He worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad making emergency parts for them from his machine shop in Roseville. During WW2 he worked at Mare Island and acquired 4 patents. This photo is from his first shop, but shows how I remember him, wearing coveralls or overalls and all dirty. I loved his machine shop though I was not allowed in too often because it was a dangerous place and I always poked where I shouldn't.

by Lyn Sara Gulbransen G2G6 Mach 4 (43.5k points)
edited by Lyn Sara Gulbransen
Lyn,  You knew you labored, repairing an old cable shovel, when you crawled back out covered in sticky old gear dope and had to throw your coveralls away.
Wonderful picture!
I always love pictures with old cars in them.  I have one of my Great Great Grandfather and his wife in a car from before World War one, and when I posted it, people responded like I am, saying what a wonderful old car it was!
+8 votes

Wish I could go back in time and meet great grand auntie Anna C Wren, treasurer of the Anchor Federal Labor Union in Kansas City, Kansas, about 1895. She was well-liked by co-workers and gave generously to the cause. At home she raised alone her three youngest siblings, and wouldn't put up with looking after a grown-up brother with no job.

If you have an account at newspapers.com you can read the clipping for no charge.

 Anna Wren raffles a gold watch for the Union

by C Ryder G2G6 Mach 8 (82.7k points)

Love that last bit! "wouldn't put up with looking after a grown-up brother with no job." I have been there!! :)

Lyn, I guess history repeats itself!
+9 votes

I gotta highlight my father, Raymond Colville, https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Colville-219  who was an organizer for the railroad union. My mother said there was a newspaper clipping somewhere of his head bloodied by police in a protest. 

by Joelle Colville-Hanson G2G6 Pilot (128k points)
+8 votes
My Great-Great Grampa ran a fishery in Alpena, Michigan before the civil war. He was able to get out of serving as he had eight children under age 10 and got someone to take his place. His son Isaac was a tugboat capt on the great lakes.
by Jennifer Robins G2G6 Pilot (143k points)
+9 votes

My Great Grandfather, was a hard working farmer. He took over running the family farm from his father, and became very prosperous. According to family members he was one of the first in the area to buy a tractor.

Jack Dodge Jr

by Chandra Garrow G2G6 Mach 6 (60.4k points)

Thanks for this, Chandra. I found his profile interesting. Jack was my 4th cousin, once removed. His g-g-grandfather Caleb was a brother to one of my direct ancestors, Nicholas Dodge, Jr.  You and I are 5th cousins, twice removed -- Hello Cousin!

Chandra and Robin,  My wife is from the Dodge family, further back......she drives a tractor in the museum parade.....told the announcer they were both born the same year.......got a big cheer.....a little boy was heard to tell his parents "I wish I had a Gramma like that ! ''.
+7 votes

When I think the word Labor, I think of women giving birth and this is a record for my family 22 children. see https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Edwards-10842

by Anonymous Palmer G2G6 Mach 9 (91.5k points)
Congratulations, Will. on belonging to such a remarkable family.
+6 votes
My great grandfather Henry Hughey was  a brick maker.  My uncle Jack Tremayne worked a\ at AC Sparkplug.I have lots of Canadian ancestor worked in the timber industry.
by David Hughey G2G Astronaut (1.6m points)
Wow David !  We're on a roll here....we have brick clay nearby.....cousin, Tremayne, shares my first name.....AC I recall, as Arnold Champion.....and I have timber industry experience in Canada......what else can you send my way?
+7 votes

In 1973 my father-in-law Egon Petersen grow his family home. He was a trained bricklayer; so he build everything with his own hands.

by Dieter Lewerenz G2G Astronaut (2.1m points)
+8 votes

"Louis Cartier, died 22 March 1880, blasting accident, quarry, Quincy, Mass."

This was just an entry in my family tree chart, until last year when I walked the Boston Freedom Trail. The sign at the Bunker Hill Monument told me that it was constructed of granite from the Quincy quarry. OH! Suddenly I realized that Louis had not only died there, but he had WORKED there. He was only one of the many laborers who had cut huge blocks of granite out of the ground, shaped and polished them, and loaded them to be transported for buildings and monuments all across the country. (Is there one near you?) There is now a virtual museum where you can see the tools they used, and if you scroll to the bottom, you can see amazing old photographs of the quarrymen at work.

The quarries are gone now, but in Quincy there is a monument to the men who labored there. The bricks at its base bear the names of the many workers who were killed.

by Joyce Vander Bogart G2G6 Pilot (159k points)
edited by Joyce Vander Bogart
Joyce,  I have studied this post, spread over two days, as there is much to relate to......Louis will be remembered for his time there.
Cool!  My family lived in Braintree/Quincy for nearly a century and several of my ancestors also worked in the quarry, but as far as I can tell, none of them died there.
That should be a fairly easy research project. Just find someone in Quincy who is willing to look at the bricks.
+7 votes


My mother was in labor and had me on Labor Day.


by Bill Vincent G2G6 Pilot (151k points)
Bill,   A labor of love !
+4 votes
I was going to respond to "Labor" with any of my women ancestors who have birth to more than 10 children! Bill Vincent, however, beat me to this definition of labor with his mum giving birth to him on 'Labor Day.'

I have been working on my Cornwall ancestry and so many of the men worked as miners. I think this sort of 'Labor' had to be terrible...working underground with minimal fresh air for up to 14 hours a day, mines caving in, digging out tin, coal or whatever that led to lung disease and early death. In addition, I saw some of my family members working in the mines when they reached 12 years of age.

Mining is one horrendous definition of 'Labor.'
by Carol Baldwin G2G6 Pilot (657k points)
Carol,  I tried, when 10, with 2 vertical shafts in the back yard, but then got nervous digging the horizontal shaft.  In Cornwall were they mining for tin?
+3 votes
Week 36 - Labor. This week I'm selecting Letitia (Coote-252) Molesworth (born about 1658), who from different records, seems to have had at least 20 children, which means she had been in labor more times than anyone else I have found. Or perhaps you could look at the amount of work that she had to labor in, looking after the said children, of whom about 11 survived to adulthood. Being a political family, it is likely that she had help from servants.

As I mentioned two weeks ago, with Letitia's husband Robert Molesworth-131, 1st Viscount of Swords, Robert and Letitia are the ancestors of Diana Princess of Wales, Sophie Countess of Wessex, John Molesworth Oxley explorer of New South Wales, Olivia and Joan de Havilland, and Robert Molesworth judge of the Supreme Court in Melbourne (my ancestor).
by Ben Molesworth G2G6 Pilot (139k points)
Ben,  When I found the name, Letitia, in the Loftus ancestors I pronounced the T's wrong, in my mind, and thought it quite an unusual name......upon pronouncing it wrongly to my wife she corrected me and I finally recognized the name.
It's quite a nice name I think. There was a girl in my highschool classes with the same name. It sounds foreign, but I'm not sure where it is from.

More than you ever wanted to know about the name Letitia.

Thank you. That was very good. Enjoyed that.
+4 votes
My grandfather in law - Clarence Preston was a laborer in the Lycoming Motors - they build our airplane motors. We have a letter and a photo of him working hard on an airplane motor. I never met him but his dad used to tell us that when ever they saw a piper airplane he would ask the pilot if he knew the model number and if it was one he worked on he would get excited.
by Christine Preston G2G6 Mach 5 (52.7k points)
Christine,    My interests in airplanes and engines includes Lycoming and it's varied history.....thanks for the reminder including Clarence who worked there.
+3 votes

Hard work pays off as the houses my 2nd great-uncle Rocco built are still standing: https://allroadhaverhill.blogspot.com/2020/09/52-ancestors-week-36-labor.html

by Chris Ferraiolo G2G6 Pilot (546k points)
+4 votes
I would like to nominate my grandfather Edward "Ned" Alderdice  1885 who was a ships carpenter  in Belfast where he was born and then Glasgow do not know how to put in his photo
by Elizabeth Alderdice G2G6 Mach 2 (21.9k points)
Photos are difficult but not impossible. Is your picture already online somewhere?

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