These Weird Careers Are Now Ancient History
Everyone loves to complain about their jobs from time to time. And while it’s true that horrible bosses and lazy coworkers can be the bane of our existence, we definitely have it a lot better than our ancestors did back in the day. And while organizing your family history research, we’re sure you’ve come across some common jobs of yesteryear that were either fairly gross, tedious, dangerous and even downright scary.
These strange careers of your ancestors will make your cushy office job with that annoying cubicle mate seem like a beach vacation!
19 Jobs of Your Ancestors That Are Now Defunct
Before electricity was discovered, lamplighters would use ladders and long poles to douse, refuel and light lamps.
2.) Switchboard Operator
Before telephones could call and connect to people directly, switchboard operators would manually connect calls by inserting phone plugs into the jacks for both ends of the line.
Back in the day when universities needed cadavers for educational purposes, resurrectionists would, well, steal bodies from graveyards and sell them to medical schools.
4.) Chimney Sweep
Before machine-based cleaning options came available, chimney ashes and soot were once always cleaned and inspected by chimney sweeps who spent their days climbing atop homes to do so.
5.) Powder Monkey
During the seafaring days, young boys aboard warships would quickly stuff gunpowder back into cannons.
6.) Hemp Dresser
When it was legal for young children to work in factories, they would be called upon to separate the coarse parts of hemp.
7.) Rat Catcher
Holding the job title of rat catcher back in the day was considered pretty important since keeping the rat population under control helped stop disease — especially the Black Plague — from spreading.
8.) Ice Cutter
Before modern refrigerators existed, your ice box and cellar used to require fresh ice to keep food cold. Thankfully, ice cutters worked in very harsh weather conditions to saw blocks of ice for this important purpose.
There was once a time when people would “read” your intelligence by measuring your skull and the shape of your head. This ridiculous practice was later dismissed as pseudoscience.
Think of a knocker-upper as your human alarm clock. Before the existence of alarm clocks, knocker-uppers would wake people up so they wouldn’t be late for jobs. They’d do so by knocking on windows with long sticks, pebbles and clubs.
There was once a time when young boys would work at bowling alleys; setting up pins between each frame. This happened up until mechanical pinsetters took their place in 1936.
12.) Leech Collector
Leech collectors once set out to cull leaches from the ground for medical use and sell them to doctors. This was during a time when bloodletting was a common practice to cure practically everything that ailed you.
13.) Town Crier
Before broadcast news was a thing, men with big, loud voices (town criers), would stand on street corners shouting important news to the townspeople.
Young boys used to follow their masters around all day (and most importantly, at parties) to remind them of the names and professions of each person they met. This was a very important job before phone books and mobile phones existed.
Before radio and iTunes, well-spoken gentlemen used to read to gigantic rooms filled with factory workers all day long to keep them entertained while they slaved away. At times, the workers actually found and paid for the entertainment themselves.
16.) Barber Surgeon
In Europe, barber surgeons would look after soldiers in the battlefield. Not only did they cut hair, but they were also trained to cut limbs when needed.
Before your iMac existed, a computer was once a job title for a person (typically an intelligent, young woman) who did computations and calculations without using advanced technology.
18.) Airplane Listener
Soldiers once used acoustic mirrors and other listening devices — like the one you see here — to listen for enemy airplanes before radar technology existed.
19.) Plague Doctor
And last but not least, the strangest (and most scary!) profession that no longer exists is that of a plague doctor. They wore this terrifying uniform back in the 1600s. The reason for the beak mask was to store spices to purify air and the wand was used to touch plagued people without having to actually reach out and touch them.
Did any of your ancestors hold these strange jobs, or others that aren’t listed here? Tell us in the comments!
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