Like just about most people, my family members have had a wide variety of occupations through the years. We’ve made or worked on or with everything from shoes to ships. We been watchmen and watch repairmen. We been teachers of reading and writing. And more…
However varied the various occupations have been, there are certain family lines where a particular trade dominated.
Many of my ancestors on my father’s side of the family came from the coast of Massachusetts, mainly the towns of Marblehead, Salem, Lynn, and Boston. For those who lived in Marblehead, especially, shipping and fishing were the primary sources of income.
My 7x great-grandfather, John Doliber, (b. 1695, d. 1751) was a Marblehead mariner, fisherman, and landowner.
He owned the schooners, Mary and Friendship, and he was a partial owner of several more. One of his ships, the 80-ton schooner Mary, was captured by the cruel, barbarous pirate Ned Low. Low renamed the ship The Fancy, and it became his flagship.
I think that qualifies as a bad day at the office.
(Ned Low also captured a distant relative, Philip Ashton, who thankfully managed to escape after months of imprisonment and torture.)
My 5x and 4x great-grandfathers, Samuel Ashton, Sr. (b. 1750, d. ~1825), and Samuel Ashton, Jr. (1785, d. 1821), were both Marblehead mariners, as well. The were part owners of several ships, and from records at the Marblehead Museum, it seems that at least one of them were privateers, sharing in the booty of captured ships.
Samuel Sr.’s grandfather, Ephriam (b. 1700, d. 1792), was both a fisherman (1744-1748) and a school master (1772-1792), combining two our our family’s dominate professions.
And, yes, it seems that he did live to 92, working until he passed away.
Most of my Diamond ancestors in Marblehead were also mariners, shoremen, and fishermen, including my 7x great-grandfather, Edward, my 6x great-grandfather Aholiah, and my 5x great-grandfather Joseph, father, son, and grandson.
Typically, there’s not much mention of the women in Marblehead, except to note that one or two sold a lease of a cow. I believe that most of them were doing what needed to be done while the men of the family were at sea: caring for the home, children, garden, orchards, animals, etc.
It couldn’t have been easy.
My father’s father, Charles Keene, Sr., as I mentioned before, served in the Merchant Marine during WW2. For years before that, he was a chef aboard the Matson Line.
Lastly, my Uncle George, Dad’s brother, served in the Navy in WW2.
The Cobblers, Cutters, and Cordwainers
When my 4x great-grandfather, William Diamond Thompson, Sr., moved from Marblehead to Lynn, the family’s occupation changed with its location. Lynn, as I’ve mentioned before, was a major manufacturing center for shoes and boots.
In the 1850 census, William Sr., gave his occupation as a cordwainer, but by 1860, both he and his namesake son, my 3x great-grandfather, William, Jr., were listed as shoe cutters.
William D. Thompson, Jr. married Anna Jane Ashton in 1844. The marriage record lists their occupations as a clicker and a shoe binder, respectively. I believe this is the first time a woman’s occupation is found in my family records.
In the 1870 census, William, Jr.’s daughter, my great-great-grandmother, Lydia Ann Thompson, age 19, gave her occupation as a shoe trimmer.
The Jack of All Trades
Meanwhile, Lydia’s future husband, George A. Keene, was apparently trying to find what he wanted to do in life. In the 1850 census, age 17, he gave his occupation as carpenter, but by 1860 he had become an upholsterer. In 1870, he was a farmer.
When he and Lydia married in 1876, after the death of his first wife, Ellen, he had become a rubber manufacturer.
In the 1880, census, he gave his occupation as inventor. Which he was.
Below are a few of his many patented inventions: a bed for invalids, an improved carriage step, a feathering paddle wheel, a rosette for harnesses, and a window washing device. I will have to do an entire post on the story of him and his inventions one day.
While my dad’s side of the family had predominately mariners and shoe makers, on Mom’s side of the family, farmers and educators were more common occupations. This side of the family settled more in the Midwest, in states like Wisconsin, Kansas, and Indiana. Classic American farm country.
My Gard ancestors began as millers and iron workers in New Jersey, but soon moved west to Pennsylvania and Ohio, then further on to Indiana and Kansas.
The land grant below was awarded to my great-great grandfather, William Perry Gard, for volunteer militia service. It granted him 160 acres in Tipton, County, Indiana.
In the 1870 and 1880 censuses, he was still working as farmer; he also served as a postmaster in Groomsville, at least in 1861. Farming didn’t always pay the bills.
He, too, might have tinkered with inventions. Below is a 1882 patent under the name of W. P. Gard of Parson, Kansas, for a seed planter.
By the time of his death in 1900, he was considered to be a successful farmer, but he no longer lived on the same 160 acres in Tipton Co.
William Perry’s son, Willis D. Gard worked as a grocer and married Eva Kesterson in 1887. Eva’s father, George, and grandfather, Thomas, were also farmers. Thomas was given a land grant for 140 acres in 1856 in Tippacanoe, Co., Indiana.
The Wells line of my mom’s family moved from Wisconsin, to South Dakota, to Montana, most working in either dairy farming or production. There’s a blog post coming soon, so more about this later.
And, just like my dad’s family, a geographic move caused a change of occupation for the Gards. By 1896, Willis and Eva had moved to Los Angeles, which despite the legendary orange groves, isn’t a big farming center. Willis worked as a lumberman in 1900 and a foreman in 1910.
Their daughters, Vida, my Nanna Wells, and her sister, my Aunt Dola, both received their teaching credentials. They were strong, smart women, ahead of their time in their independence and level of education.
Nanna married Lawrence Wells, Nampie, whose mother was a teacher and father a dairyman. Nampie had a variety of jobs, at times a chauffeur, a guard at a power plant, and an auto mechanic.
Nampie eventually settled on watch and jewelry repair. He had a little shop right next to his and Nanna’s house on West Beverly Blvd.
And now, I think I’ve made this post quite long enough! If you’ve soldiered through until now, thank you. Sadly, I have left so much untold. I have more stories to tell than time to tell them!
‘Til next time.