Forgotten Trails: Mysterious places hold history

Published 4:46 am Wednesday, August 20, 2008

By By Lydia Grimes
When you are working on genealogy, always go to the newspapers in the area for that time period.
There may be names of family members listed in obituaries or in the social section of the paper. There may have been a writer who was writing stories and having them put in the paper every week.
There were people a hundred years ago that were just as interested in family and it's role in history as there are today.
I know personally that there was a man who in 1899 sat down and wrote about the times and the people that he knew and submitted it to the local paper to be printed.
Today those accounts are valued for their genealogical and historical information. Newspapers are being collected in libraries and, in a lot of cases, being bound or microfilmed so that they are readily available to the average person.
Internet is bringing much of this information directly into the home with more and more being added every day.
Other often skipped sources of information are church records in the area where the ancestor was living.
People tended to settle together and attend the same church denomination. But, it must be said, just because you are a Methodist does not mean that your ancestor was.
So you need to search all churches and denominations in the area. Some of the denominations have extensive records and others do not. Hope for a Quaker to pop up in your genealogy. They kept good records. Look at maps of the period to locate the churches.
Another good place to search in the nineteenth century is the agricultural census.
These exist for the years 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880. These census records won't tell you names of ancestors but they do provide a picture into the world of those ancestors.
The nineteenth century was a time when a lot of people were farming and obtaining land.
The agricultural census tells you several things about an individual.
They tell you the amount of land owned, where it was, what they grew, and what livestock they had at the time.
You can tell the rise and fall of an ancestor's wealth or lack of wealth at any given time. The numbers are not always exact but it gives an idea of what they had.
I personally know of those who would have you believe that they owned half the county, but the records don't always support them.
These records are interesting around the time of the Civil War. This is true especially in the South.
The war had an unbelievable impact on farming and agriculture. I have seen family records of mine that show a fairly wealthy family before the war and afterwards show a family on the brink of ruin.
I think about my great grandmother's family. In the 1850 census, her family had a modest farm with a cow, mule, chickens, sheep, and even a couple of goats. In 1860, her family had come apart and she and her sibblings were living with relatives.
The relatives show a rise in their fortune and it can only have been the addition of my great grandmother's family possessions. I am not complaining about that. Her relatives gave the children a home and they were raised with love.
I can't let this opportunity pass by without telling you that the internet is also opening up new worlds into the information highway.
Teachers, put your students into history and they will appreciate it so much more.
Give them something personal to search for. Wouldn't you be more interested in history if you had an ancestor at the Battle of New Orleans or one who immigrated to America because of the potato famine in Ireland?
Get out and look for your roots - you just might be amazed.
Happy hunting.

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