Sunday, November 13, 2011

Historical Context - One Way to Connect

I think this is usually the way it goes with new genealogists, at least it was with me. You usually spend the first few years in a mad dash to get your family lines as far back as you can go until you either hit a brick wall or have to wait for a time when you can cross a geographical boundary to get to the records. At least that's where I'm at right now. Doing genealogy on my family lines for about 10 years now and I've hit both these walls. What do you do in the mean time while you're waiting. Well, I've been doing a stint as a volunteer look-up for other genealogist which incidentally helps hone my own research skills. I ended up working in our local archives which gives me more time handling old records - all types of old records. So I'm getting experience there also. I don't want to stop doing research on my own family. So I pick up a family file once in a while and look back through it to see if I can take any new skills I've learned and apply them to my family research. Also, are there any new sources that have opened up on the internet recently on these family lines?

From my two recent trips to Kentucky I've been a little more open to the history of the places my family came from. After I got all the names and dates copied then I spent the last few hours studying the history of the old home places. This has been my latest pastime, putting my ancestors into an historical context. I got to look at a fascinating history of a river town, Burnside, on the Cumberland River. I drove around the county getting an idea of how the countryside lay. Stopping by an antique shop I picked up a copy of a free history newspaper, The Historical News, by Southern Historical News Inc. It's a free little newspaper that covers the counties of Adair, Casey, Clinton, Lincoln, McCreary, Pulaski, Russell, Taylor, and Wayne. I wonder if they have versions of this paper for other parts of Kentucky? It has articles covering topics in all these counties. I have family lines that come from six of these counties. So that was quite a find.

I don't have photos of these family lines in Kentucky. So putting them in historical context gives me a feel for what their life might have been like from reading the area's history. I guess being a genealogist involves study of history. We've all read stories of the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, but there is so much more out there. Even little stories of the old homeplaces are interesting even when they involve your family or even if it just their neighbors. It still gives you a feeling of touching their life for a short time. I've heard so many little tales in our family of what this great aunt did or where did that great uncle dissappear to or what happened to the children after the parents died. If you know the history of the area and their customs involving dealing with situations like this it can really narrow down the choices they might have made in this time in history.

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