What’s your dream job? A recent survey of Canadians by family history website Ancestry.ca found the top five dream jobs are fairly expected. Tied for first place at eleven percent each were “author” and “doctor”, followed by musician (10 percent), “actor” (8 percent) and “professional athlete” (seven percent.)
Respondents were also asked about the worst jobs they’ve ever had. Perhaps not surprisingly, farming jobs topped the list, including “poop barn cleaner”, “cleaner of the horse barn” and one rather vague title of “intensive livestock operations.” There were also several entries related to the canning of fish in factories, including one individual with a niche skill of “peeling shrimp.” Interestingly, there were repeated entries for “daycare” and “babysitting” as the worst jobs Canadians have ever had, and even one entry for something that many will agree is hard work, though not technically a job – “marriage.”
However, are these the worst jobs ever? Not necessarily. Ancenstry.ca looked at national censuses and immigration collections and found some less-than-ideal vocations from the past, including:
- Pig Nurse - Mary Brown, a 26-year-old Toronto resident, is listed in the 1901 Census as a pig nurse, which would appear to be a very rare specialty of the veterinarian family of medicine.
- Lunatic Keeper - John Corbett has the distinction of being Canada’s only official ‘Lunatic keeper’, according to the 1901 Census. John, a 48-year-old, lived in Saint John, New Brunswick.
- Idiot - Neither politically correct nor technically even an occupation, the Canadian censuses list three people as ‘Idiots’, meaning they were patients in Asylums.
- Beggar - Canada had nearly 40 people officially claiming to be professional ‘Beggars’ between 1851 and 1916, including poor Mary Munroe, a 25-year-old Baptist living in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.
- Witch -John Quinn, a 48-year-old resident of Gaspe, Quebec, is listed as a ‘Witch’ in the 1881 Census.
The lure to Canada’s Wild West during the late 1800s is evident with more than 30,000 individuals reporting their occupation as ‘Saloon Keeper’. There was also a significant number of ‘Cattle Herders’, ‘Horse Dealers’, and more than 8,000 ‘Stable Boys’.
Looking at historical immigration records like the Canadian Passenger Lists: 1865-1935, one can see that Canada’s early settlers were made up primarily of those seeking a better way of life in a new land, noted Ancenstry.ca. The work they did helped shape the fibre of a young nation.
- The opening of Canada’s west in the late 1800s drew large numbers of German immigrants, mostly farmers. The farmers, used to the harsh conditions of farming in Eastern Europe, were some of the most successful in adapting to the Canadian prairies.
- In 1895, following reports of the vast amounts of free land available in the new world, Joseph Oleskiw – a professor of agriculture in the Ukraine - published a pamphlet, About the Free Lands, advertising Canada as the most suitable country for settlement. While the exact numbers remain unknown, it is estimated that between the mid-1870s and 1914 170,000 Ukrainians settled in Canada, mainly as farmers
- The first Chinese to settle in Canada were a small group of 50 artisans. They’d been contracted by Captain John Meares in 1788 to set up a trading post of otter pelts on Vancouver Island. It wasn’t until 1858 that the next wave of Chinese came to Canada, pulled by the lure of the gold rush in the Fraser River Valley. In the 1870′s and 1880′s they were followed by another wave of young peasant migrants who came to build the Canadian Pacific Railway through the Rockies.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?