As we research our ancestors we learn a lot about the times they lived in and the things they did for a living. I always find it incredibly interesting when I see an occupation that I’ve not heard of before.
In this case, it was for Henry Bryan Clark, my maternal 3rd cousin 3 times removed. I was doing a bit of collateral research when I ran across an employment record for Henry. Upon further review it was actually a Social Security Application handled by the railroad.
Henry’s occupation is listed as “Snowman" for the Chicago and North Western RR [railroad] Co. I accessed this record here U.S., Chicago and North Western Railroad Employment Records, 1935-1970
These employment cards give valuable genealogical information. Information similar to that found on an SS-5 (social security application form)
In this case it give the following:
- His full name – Henry Bryan Clark
- Current address – Daws Hotel, Chicago, Illinois
- Date and place of birth – 14 Jul 1888 in Omaha, Nebraska
- Names of his parents, including his mother’s maiden name – James Arthur Clark & Kate Everett
- His social security number – 353-05-7913
- His previous employment – working for his father
- Place of employment prior to this – South Water St., Chicago, Illinois
- His occupation title – Snowman
- Hire date – Mar 1948
- Signature – he signed the card
That’s a whole lot of great information.
My biggest question is What is a Snowman? What does that person do?
The obvious thing that comes to mind is that they are responsible for removing snow from the railroad tracks. But, I didn’t want to just guess. I began Googling my question. I looked at lists of “old” occupations, railroad specific occupations and many other general inquiries. I found nothing to tell me about this specific job title.
My next idea was to contact my very good friend in Amarillo, Texas. He worked for the railroad for over 30 years, as did his father and grandfather. Will he be able to answer my question?
Upon talking with my railroad friend, Steve, he believes this was probably someone who operated the snow plows that cleared the tracks. He had never specifically heard the term “snowman,” but had heard terms like Switch Tender, for those that did this job. If anyone else had heard this term or had more information, please get in touch.
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