Occupation Station

Occupation Station

Introduce your youngsters to ancestral occupations with this fun quiz.

Have you ever wondered how you will earn a living when you grow up? If so, you’re thinking about occupations. Children have always wondered what they will be when they grow up. Your ancestors might have recited this old jump-rope rhyme about occupations:

“Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor;
Rich man, poor man, beggar-man, thief.”

What is a tinker? That occupation doesn’t really exist anymore. As the world changes, what people do for work changes, too. Knowing what someone did for a living helps us understand them better. Take this quiz to see how many old-time occupations you can identify—some still exist, others don’t.
Match each old-time occupation with the description that matches. Answers are below. 
 Old-time Occupation  Description of the job
 1. huckster  A. drove a team of horses that hauled cargo
 2. spinster  B. did cooking, sewing and cleaning at home
 3. midwife  C. sold small items in a shop or booth on the street
 4. milliner  D. made or repaired wooden barrels and tubs
 5. keeping house  E. mended tin pots and pans and sold them
 6. lavender  F. built and maintained mills or mill machinery
 7. wainwright  G. washed other people’s laundry
 8. teamster  H. made or repaired wagons
 9. millwright  I. made or repaired shoes
 10. cobbler  J. delivered babies and cared for the mothers 
 11. cooper  K. spun yarn with a spinning wheel
 12. tinker  L. a carpenter or worker who sawed wood
 13. sawyer
 M. made or sold hats 
Need some help?            
Hint 1: Sometimes you’ll see part of the definition in the occupation word (like “saw” in sawyer). But be careful, this doesn’t work for some other occupations, such as milliner.

Hint 2: Some of the expressions we use today come from old occupations. To “tinker” means to fix (especially metal objects). To “cobble something together” means to patch it up or repair it. A “huckster” today tries to trick you into buying something. To be “cooped up” means to feel like you’re trapped in a small space (like a box or barrel). 
Think about these work-related questions:

1. What occupations exist today that didn’t exist 200 years ago? Hint: Think about things we use that weren’t around then.
2. Not so long ago, women were only allowed to do certain jobs. Which ones in the matching game above do you think were usually done by women? By men? What about today: Do you think there are still jobs done mostly by women or men?
3. Where can you find out what your ancestors did for a living? With a grown-up, check a census record or obituary to see whether they mention occupations.

Answers to the quiz:

1. C; 2. K; 3. J; 4. M; 5. B; 6. G; 7. H; 8. A; 9. F; 10. I; 11. D; 12. E; 13. L 
Women could be a: spinster, midwife, milliner, keeping house, lavender.

Men could be a: wainwright, teamster, millwright, cobbler, cooper, tinker, sawyer.
A huckster could be a man or a woman.  

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