Names of Early Occupations

witch pricker Our ancestors had a few unusual jobs, most which were very manual laborers. Of course the name for some of those jobs are even stranger. The following are some of names or titles of positions, many of which no longer exist in most of the developed nations of the world today.

For instance there was a Lardner’ an official in charge of pig food. True, someone today is still in charge of food for pigs, but not called a lardner. Generally the word today is that of a surname, possibly the origin of that family name.

Now this occupation is not too common now-a-days, but decades ago it was much more a standard job, especially in Salem, Massachusetts in the 1600s. It is ‘Pricker’ which refers to a witch hunter. Their method was to take a needle, prick a person on their skin in different areas to find an area that would not bleed, so declaring them a witch.

This occupation is known today by other names, mostly salesman, but once when someone was attempting to sell religious books and especially Bibles they were referred to as a ‘Colporteur’. For another type of salesman were the words ‘Jagger’ and ‘Ripper’ referring to those who sold fish.

For law officers, law clerks to a judge or policemen there have been numerous terms. One from centuries ago is that of ‘Tipstaff’. This term is still in use in the United Kingdom and former British colonies. Within the United States the term occasionally refers to a court bailiff. Another occupation that would watch over or care for the citizens of a village or town was ‘Rattle Watch’.

If you had an ancestor who was a ‘Mango’, that type of occupation has long been outlawed. It would have been a slave dealer.

Now a medical doctor or physician has been a long time honored occupation. Yet some of the terms for a doctor included ‘Leech’, ‘Archiator’ and ‘Mayer’.

For a minister, pastor or church rector a term used commonly was ‘Parochus’.

Centuries ago, before photos; documents, manuscripts and especially books would have hand drawn illustrations or decorations. A person who had such skills was called a ‘Limner’.

In the American West there were cowboys, but an earlier term for that job was that of ‘Ankle Beater’. It was a person who helped drive the cattle to market.

For someone with no job, no income or extreme poor the term given was that of ‘Bairman’, who would have to beg for any food or shelter.

So many other descriptive words for numerous occupations can be found, all part of our ancestors’ world at one time.

Photo: The tools used by a ‘Pricker’ – a witch hunter.

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