I read a really interesting post over at Lukáš Svoboda’s blog the other day that really helped me to think about my Czech ancestors in a different way. Using various land records, he made a list of all of the residents of the town of Zlonice (okres Kladno) and their professions.
What he found was that in 1794, out of the 380 people living in the small village, there were 13 tailors, 9 shoemakers, 5 journeyman bricklayers, and 3 master bricklayers. He wonders about how people could possibly have made a living as a tailor in this village, since people could not possibly need to repair their clothes often enough to sustain 13 tailors there.
His basic idea is that maybe we should adjust our way of viewing life on a rural farm as more difficult than life in a town or city. He used his own family to prove this idea, citing how his stocking-maker ancestor migrated to Zlonice around 1730 and died in 1774 as a pauper in the Zlonický hospital. His son trained to become a bricklayer but ended up at the same hospital. Basically, the people in his family picked professions with a lot of competition, and had a hard time making a living.
At least farm life would allow you the benefit of eating what you grow or raise. Though, this also means you are almost entirely dependent on the weather, your tools, and your skill. Farming is difficult physical labor, but also difficult mental labor. It takes skill to know plants and animals.
I thought this exercise of analyzing a village by profession was fascinating. It would be really interesting to do that for Frenštát, Trojanovice, or Vratimov. Almost all of my ancestors were farmers or hired-hands on farms. Farmers that did not own their own land, except for a little plot around their home.
Another project for another day!