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Unusual Occupations in Canadian Census Records
Posted 28 August 2012

Times have changed and so have jobs. While many people in our nation's past selected common fields like labour and retail to earn their living, not everyone followed the masses - in fact, in the 19th and early 20th centuries many Canadians veered way off the beaten path and chose much more unusual career courses.

In time to celebrate the workforce this Labour Day,, Canada's largest family history website, dug into its collection of historic Canadian censuses (covering the years 1851 to 1916) and highlighted some of the most unusual occupations - which aren't likely to appear on LinkedIn profiles today.
  • Danise Barzano, living in Ottawa in 1901, listed her occupation as Baseball Field ("terrain de baseball") in the census of that year.
  • Saint John, NB resident John Corbett offered his job title as a "Lunatic Keeper" in the 1901 Census.
  • Also in 1901, Torontonian Mary Brown was working as a "Pig Nurse" according to the Census.
  • William H Butler, an Ottawa resident twenty years prior, was working as a "Bell Hanger" in the 1881 Census.
  • And also in 1881, John Dade, a father of five, was working as a "Lamp Lighter" while living in Toronto.
  • Young John Middleton, a 19-year-old Algoma, Ontario resident was perhaps Canada's most honest young man, listing his occupation as a "Criminal" in 1901.
  • Finally there was Georgia Wilcox, a 38-year-old BC resident whose 1901 occupation was listed as "Idiot" - a historic reference for a patient of an asylum.
Unusual jobs were by no means the norm, with many historic Canadians taking the more conventional route.
  • While it takes some time to land a Doctor's appointment today to the frustration of many (with around 400 Canadians for each doctor according to the 2006 census), in 1901 it must have been downright impossible, with just 1,000 total MDs listed in the census -- or just one doctor for every 5,000 Canadians.
  • Between the years 1851 and 1916, the most frequently-listed occupation was that of Labourer. By comparison, today's most commonly held job is in "sales and services" with more than 4 million people working in this field according to the 2006 Census.
Canadians interested in learning more can visit for a 14 day free trial.

For those looking to discover their American ancestors, is offering free access to its complete collection of Historic US Censuses, including the new 1940 Census, at [then click on "U.S. Federal Census Collection"] (from August 29 to September 3).

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