Monday 17 June 2019

Rat-catchers, lamplighters and human computers - the jobs that are dying out

Records showed that in the 1800s women were hired as ‘computers’ to calculate and crunch numbers
Records showed that in the 1800s women were hired as ‘computers’ to calculate and crunch numbers
Laura Lynott

Laura Lynott

'Rat-catchers', 'lamplighters' and 'knocker-uppers' - new research has found a number of popular occupations no longer exist or are dying out.

Records from the 1800s and early 1900s have revealed some jobs, including a knocker-upper - who tapped on the windows of workers to wake them - no longer exist.

Other roles that have died out are rat-catchers and phrenologists - who read intelligence based on the shape of people's heads.

"It's fascinating to look at the more unusual occupations from history and take a journey back to see what our ancestors may have done for a living," said Ancestry.com spokesman Russell James.

The decline in particular jobs was triggered by lack of necessity, often from the rise of technology, an issue that's again becoming relevant due to the increase in automation.

Records showed that in the 1800s women were hired as 'computers' to calculate and crunch numbers. Ancestry.com research shows two workers, Meta E Draper and Francis J Mest, both from Ireland, worked as computers in Brooklyn, according to the 1910 US Federal Census.

An elevator operator was a popular job for Irish immigrants in the US with more than 1,500 listed in the 1940 Census. Catherine O'Brien, born in west Ireland in 1906, worked as an operator in New York. A linotype operator was a highly skilled worker who used the linotype, a hot metal typesetting system, to produce the daily newspaper. Born in Dublin in 1873, Charles David Pringle worked as a compositor linotype operator in Wandsworth, London, according to the 1911 England Census.

Lamplighting was a popular occupation, with 60 Irish working in the trade in the US, according to the 1900 Census.

Irish Independent

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