Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Pity the children...

When I look back at my own childhood and the old pictures of my father's & my Aunt's early years, I realize the distance that has been spanned since the time when the family of Andrew Carroll was living and working on US soil.
The first time that I acessed the US Census for my Carroll ancestors in Shendandoah, PA, I felt bad to see the names of working children. Andrew and Catherine Carroll had 7 Children living at their Cherry street home in 1880 during the Census that was done on 11 June,1880.

2 of these offspring were of adult age, James 22, Laborer and my Great-grandfather, John who was 19 and a miner. This was before John Joseph Carroll moved to Philadelphia, married and worked with the Pennsylvania RR.

Among the minor aged children in the Carroll household in Sheandoah, nearly all worked the mines :

- Mary Ann, 17 year was a Tailor.
- Thomas, 15 was a Slate picker.
- Martin, 13 was a Slate picker.
- Elizabeth, 11 was at school.
- Catherine, 4 years .

There was an oldest son, Patrick, who was already married and with a family.Add him to the grim statistics also, as he was a miner and probably grew up doing similar children's work in the mine.

When I think that I went to school full time and I played,socialized with other children,had toys and books, and was able to just be a child...

This seems like an extreme luxury compared to my 19th century ancestors.

I feel very much like a woman of today when I think about chidren working .it both saddens and angers me, but I'am well aware that this was another era with other practices.
Though I'm far from accepting these practices, my mind was also full of questions about the children who worked in the coal mines, for example :

Was there a minimum of mandatory schooling for these children ? How did the children work in the mines?Were the jobs adapted to their smaller size and weight ? What were their hours ?

In an attempt to gain some new knowledge about the lives of these and other child laborers in the Anthracite valley of Pennsylvania, I scanned the Internet for some online sources. One of my finds came from the Pennsylvania Historical Commission. Click on the following link for Child labor in Pennsylvania :

Though the article is short, it's a starting point for further reading.

There is also the History place where some some striking photos of child laborers, including miners, await you here.

Just in the same Pa Historical & Museum commission website, I clicked on the Genealogy link. There is a nice page concerning coal miner's records that can be found at the PA State archives called :

Unearthing your coal miner relatives at the Pennsylvania State Archives :

For my great-great grandfather and coal miner, Andrew Carroll , the document sources are after his era. But,more for his sons or even grandsons who may have carried on the trade.

I think that we all have more of these sad faced young workers in one's family tree than one realizes.
More closely to me in my Genealogy, my paternal grandparents also worked at an early age. Grandmother was a seamstress, Grandfather enroled in the Navy at 16... the family legend has it that Grandad" exagerated" about his age to get in and to be able to have a steady job to help support the family.

But all that is yet another chapter in my Genealogy book to open !

Wishing everyone interesting finds in Genealogy.

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