31 August 2008

What did they do?

As tomorrow, Labor Day approaches, we honor those who make life possible through their blood sweet and tears.

Often as we go back in time and stumble on the history of our ancestors we wonder what they did for a living. Many of my ancestors were farms, but also has those who worked in the factories. Very little of my heritage was passed down to my through my family. Much of what I now know about my ancestors has come through my research and through the contribution of other distant relatives.

So how do you find out what your ancestors did for a living? The most useful places are census records, obituaries, business directories, and for those who served or registered for war are the world war registrations. There are I'm sure other sources, but these are just a few I commonly use.

For example a very generous man, whom I didn't know saw my request for information on my grandfather and since I used the word please in my request it drew his attention. He contact me and said he had a passion for obituaries, had found my grandfather's, and would I like a copy. Of course I said yes. My grandfather Albert Lee Woolsey died when I was eight. He lived in the home with my grandmother, just behind us. By that time of course he was retired and of the time I remember he was sick. Of course I was too young and wrapped up in being a kid to ask any questions as too their life. My grandmother made sure to talk to me and I gained bits and pieces from her, but I never learned much about grandpa. So I must say I was surprised when I got his obit and in it was this:

"Born in Oklahoma, he moved to Modesto in 1962 and was a press operator for Norris Industries. He was a member of the Full Gospel Tabernacle"

How ironic. I discovered this pieces of information about a year after my daughter was born and I had quit my job for a printing company, selling printing. Even then it didn't hit me what we had in common.

At one point I started researching the family of my great grandmother May Elizabeth Rollette. I really still want to know more. My great grandfather left her when the children were still young, taking the children with him. The family hardly knew her and knew even less about her life or that of her family. I began finding them in the census records in MO where we knew she was born.

In 1920 I found May and Frank Roe in Buchanan, MO. The were roomers at the home of John W Stephens. They both worked at the local Box Factory and May was a stamper there. I have yet to find out what the local box factory was, but it gives us just a little more glimpse into their lives. I also find it interesting that Frank and his brother both were working there, both had moved there from Oklahoma and married women there. I think it's very likely that they left the Indian reservation they were on in Oklahoma to look for work in the factories of MO where they each meet and married a woman from the factory.

I also found the World War I registration card for May's brother Everett David Rollett. In his registration his occupation is list Delivery Clerk for Meyers Auto Livery. So here I not only found his occupation, but also the name of the company he is working for.

So take some time this weekend to look back through your notes, study and honor the hard work of your ancestors. Who knows you may get lucky and have it lead you to another bit of information you didn't even know.