21 October 2014

In the 1900s Many of Your Ancestors Worked, as Children, in Factories, Mines and Other Dangerous Places

Some of the most disturbing images that were captured in the early part of the 1900s were those of kids working in factories, coal mines, and other places where no kids belonged. The most famous photographer was Lewis Hine; his pictures brought these children into the spotlight in a way the nation could no longer ignore.

There is a video at the end with many images of child laborers ... they didn’t have childhoods like what many of us had. It’s well worth taking 3.5 minutes to watch it.  Maybe some of your ancestors were child laborers and worked under these conditions.

You can check out more images in the National Child Labor Committee Collection (Library of Congress). I searched on Salem Massachusetts since my ancestors were emigrating between 1900-1910 into that community.  Many of the photos do identify who the children were.

This website, The History Place, also has a webpage devoted to Child Labor in America 1908-1912, Photographs of Lewis W. Hine.  I also found this website interesting, Child Labor Public Education ProjectUpfront with NGS previously talked a bit about this same project in the post Photo + Genealogy Sleuthing = 100+ Year Mystery Solved.

This is a reminder that as we do our research, we have to consider the time and the place and what were considered the norms.  You cannot look at your life now and use that as the benchmark for your ancestors.  Do learn the history of where they lived, what was acceptable and not.  Though we may not agree with child labor, there also used to be laws on the books that might be nice if we still had them such not swearing in public (you could be fined), etc

Do you know if your ancestors worked as child laborers?  If so, doing what?

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