Barber John

A barbershop in the 1910s, image found on Pinterest.

Apparently we have a barber in the John family.

I happened to notice that Ancestry had added a database regarding Wisconsin employment records, which is a collection of records of individuals who needed a license to work, and included occupations such as: teachers, boxers, barbers and watchmakers. So I thought I would check to see if Lydia Hamm was in there as a teacher.

Well I didn’t find Lydia, or any other Hamm of interest, but when I tried searching for Johns two names showed up that I recognized: Eric and Elmer W. John. These two men are both sons of William John, jr., the, sort of, middle son of F.W. and Johanna John.

Eric John is 4172, on lower half of page.
Elmer W. Johns is 738, or second on page.

Eric is already a barber in the register and is merely keeping up with his professional paperwork. Elmer on the other hand is actually registering as an apprentice. I guess he had a year or so to go before he could call himself a professional.

I did a quick search for Eric at Ancestry and found him working in a barbershop in Rock County in the 1910 census. Eventually he moved the family to Gillett and continued as a barber probably his whole life. (His son Keith had a daughter whom we met at the Gillett Cemetery Walk a few years ago.)

Elmer eventually moved to Milwaukee and was employed as an electrician by 1940. I guess the barbering profession wasn’t for him.

Just a fun fact to share. Its nice to know what our cousins were doing with their lives.


  • Barber register, 1903-1913; Wisconsin. Barbers Examining Board; Series 880, box 1 flat, Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison Wisconsin. [Ancestry.com. Wisconsin, Employment Records, 1903-1988 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2018. digital image 638-639 of 770]
  • Apprentice register, 1907-1913; Wisconsin. Barbers Examining Board; Series 882, box 1, Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison Wisconsin. [Ancestry.com. Wisconsin, Employment Records, 1903-1988 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2018, digital image 520 of 735.]

Would you like a little shave with your surgery?

 

Most of my ancestors had pretty traditional jobs like farmers and merchants, some were in specialized trades like doctor, blacksmith, or weavers. So I was quite intrigued when I came across a barber.

When we hear the word barber today we, of course, think shave and a haircut, maybe even a little tooth pulling, if jokingly recalling rumors of old.

Ellis Barron is one of those ancestors I ran across while trying to fill in some of the surname lines in my Fay tree. Frankly, there isn’t all that  much we do know about him. But, his probate includes an inventory taken of his estate when he died in 1676. In this inventory is found barber’s instruments:

record-image_3QSQ-G9DL-FPX4

Of course the first thought that pops in my head is Sweeney Todd and his lady friend’s nasty meat pies. But that is the stage. However, in real life these barbers did engage in some pretty gross practices along with, yes, tooth extractions, there was: blood lettings, enemas, wound surgery, boil lancing, and digging out hangnails, ingrown hair or nails. Apparently they even preformed the service of castration.

The barber-surgeon was a profession that had been around for a very long time, lasting into the early 1800s. If you are interested in learning more, here are two links to a little history of the barber and the barber pole, and I am sure you could find more:

http://wordinfo.info/unit/3364/ip:17
https://io9.gizmodo.com/5965741/how-barbers-became-surgeons

Ellis also had in his inventory a slave by the name of Shippio. It is thought that he might have been an assistant of Ellis’ in the barber trade, but we don’t know for sure. Shippio was given to Ellis’ wife, Ann, when he died and she willed the barber items to Shippio when she died. Other’s have tried to find out what happened to him, but nothing has been found so far.

… also the Negro servt I leave to my wife, and desire her to have a care of him that he may suffer no wrong …

So the next time I go to the dentist or doctor, I will be very thankful that they have the awesome skills they do to do their job right, so my hairdresser can just focus on my hair.