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September 8 , 2009

From Lunatic Keepers to Idiots at ancestry.ca

Site highlights unusual Canadian jobs

Some parents want their children to grow up to be doctors or lawyers. Many kids dream of a fast-paced, high-action life as a firefighter or police officer. But how many dreamed of life as a lunatic keeper or a pig nurse? As the nation gets set to embark on its 115th Labour Day, Ancestry.ca takes a look back at some of the strangest jobs in our collective history.

Ancestry.ca, the only online source for the complete digitized Historical Canadian Censuses from 1851 to 1916, is highlighting the labour landscape from the early days of our nation's growth, including the following jobs you may not have wanted to list on your CV:

Lunatic Keeper - John Corbett has the distinction of being Canada's only official 'Lunatic keeper', according to the 1901 Census.

Criminal - John Middleton, a 19-year-old from Algoma, Ontario, was honest about his profession, listing himself as a 'Criminal' when asked for his occupation in the 1901 Census.

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 beprofessional 'Beggars' between 1851 and 1916

Witch - It's a good thing he didn't live in Salem! John Quinn, a 48- year-old resident of Gaspe, Quebec, is listed as a 'Witch' in the 1881 Census.

Monster - Robert Hosking, a 42-year-old husband and father of four in Huron, Ontario, lists his occupation as 'Monster' in the 1901 Census.

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.

And on the more conventional side:

The most common occupation of all was 'Labourer.' More than 200,000 people listed their occupation as some form of labourer, approximately 37 per cent of the total population at the time.

The lure to Canada's Wild West during this time period is evident. More than 30,000 individuals reported their occupation as 'Saloon Keeper'. There was also a significant number of 'Cattle Herders', 'Horse Dealers', and more than 8,000 'Stable Boys'.

While hockey had not yet become our national passion there were a handful of sportsmen in Canada during this era. Five people list themselves simply as 'Athletes', in addition to one 'Golf Professional', two 'Golf Teachers', one 'Baseball Player' and the challenging and bruising job of 'Baseball Glove', as listed by Montreal's George Roberts in the 1901 Census.

Ancestry.ca has 125 million Canadian names. The site was launched in January 2006 and to date more than 11 million family trees have been created and one billion names and 22 million photographs uploaded. 7.4 million unique visitors logged on to an Ancestry website in June 2009. (comScore, June 2009)

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