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Labor Day - Your Ancestors at Work

labor-vintage cardThe annual public holiday in the United States of Labor Day began in the 1880s by organized trade unions in several different states to recognize the American worker. One of the first big parades was held in New York City in 1882. The state of Oregon was the first to make the celebration an official state holiday in 1887. By 1894 a total of 30 states celebrated Labor Day as an official holiday and it was then made a Federal Public Holiday. Marked the first Monday of every September, this yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of the United States. Similar, recognition of workers is held in other countries also.

labor-girls 1900A reminder, it is not just the factory worker or the farmer but all types of occupations and the people who fill those jobs. From teachers, doctors, bankers, artists, computer techs, etc there are many jobs still done over the decades and many not needed anymore. This is one area you need to seriously investigate – the types of occupations each of your ancestors held. Use census records, city directories, vital records (marriage certificates), military/draft records, newspapers and obituaries.

labor-parade-NYC-1914If you can locate that a relative was a member of a union, even better. One way is to find their occupation and see if a union existed. Also, go through any photos of the ancestors and see if they are wearing any union pins on their coat. Look through any artifacts you or another relative may have and see if an actual union pin or membership card can be located.

Once knowledgeable about a relative’s occupation, learn more about it to add that information to the family history, especially if it a job not done anymore.  labor-models-1960s

Photos: Labor Day vintage postcard, girls working in a factory about 1900, a Labor Day parade in NYC in 1914, and Models showing off clothing styles on an ILGWU Labor Day parade float on 5th Avenue NYC 1960s.

Related genealogy blogs:

Your Ancestors’ Occupation

Unusual Occupations

Women’s Occupations

Finding Working Ancestors


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