I learned something new yesterday. And I clarified a fuzzy piece of history, too. You know how some blurry bit of information suddenly has new meaning? That's what happened.
While adding to my Nancy's Finding Aids page (above) I was checking some of my online research links. Before I knew it I was engrossed in the "Old Occupations" page that's part of the Help For Genealogy Researchers page at the U. S. GenWeb Project. Some of the names for occupations are pretty surprising and can help us to understand what our family members were actually doing centuries ago.
As I was looking at these job descriptions dating back in the ages, I noticed "Fuller -- One who fulls cloth;one who shrinks and thickens woolen cloth by moistening, heating, and pressing; one who cleans and finishes cloth." Well, a light bulb went on in my memory bank, bringing back a bit of information about our immigrant ancestor, Joseph Niehaus. I know positively that he's a rug weaver, before and after emigrating to Indiana. And that's why I've always had a question about the "occupation, trade, or profession" column for him in the 1900 census. I wondered what it meant when the enumerator wrote for Joseph's occupation "furniture fuller, or filler." The handwriting is not totally legible and I thought it might say filler. I presumed he had some sort of carpentry skills in addition to his weaving, that he might be using in furniture production. Maybe his weaving business wasn't working out at the time and he had to find another job. But the type of work seemed to be removed from his skilled trade. I just wasn't sure about that listing. It's been lurking in the background for a while. (The inset below is the line from the census, showing his occupation on the right.)
But, I'm ready to make a speculative leap here. Now that I've learned what a "fuller" is, and I know Joseph's skills in the textile area, my fuzzy piece of history may be focusing. I'm willing to say that I've found a likely answer to the question about his occupation in 1900. He was finishing cloth to be used in the preparation of furniture. We all have to use our skills as best we can to make our living at various times in our lives. While continuing to weave rugs on his loom in the back room of his home in Indianapolis, Joseph was also using his abilities to earn income as a fuller. The tiny zero "0" in the column next to his occupation indicates he was not unemployed for any months of the previous year. Whether he was working full time at this fuller job, we can't know. But the relationship of one occupation to the other is logical. Now it fits!
If you would like to take a look for yourself at the list of old occupations, click on my Nancy's Finding Aids above and go to the bottom of the page under Miscellaneous Helpers. The U. S. GenWeb Project website is brimming with helpful and fun links. Have fun.
Let me know what you're thinking about Joseph Niehaus's occupation. Do you have something to share about a fuller?
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