The recent coverage of the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic with books, magazine articles, news reports, documentaries and movies has reminded everyone how certain historical events can play such important defining moment in nearly everyone’s lives. Certainly those survivors of the Titanic, the descendants of those who did not survive and the general public around the globe were affected for decades after this tragedy.
I recently learned of instances that college-aged students in numerous locations had no idea that what happened with the Titanic and its passengers and crew really happened. They thought it was a great love story set on a ship struck by a disaster, based on the 1997 Hollywood movie. It was not until the recent media reports across the television and the Internet that these 20+ year olds finally realized that the sinking of the Titanic was a real event and actually affected countless people. This is a sad case for the instruction of history in schools and even colleges.
Interweaving one’s own family history with real historical events could be the answer. This has already been demonstrated in the highly successful genealogical television programs of ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ and ‘Finding Your Roots’, which blends celebrities, family lineage along with historical events that the ancestors would have been involved or affected by. The most common blend are those ancestors who were in the American Civil War or those who arrived at Ellis Island along with those who faced adversity in their ancestral homelands.
Once you can merge knowledge of individual ancestors and what happened in their lives to bring them from ‘point A’ to ‘point B’ can help you better understand how your parents or even yourself developed and achieved what you did. Each person is a product of their ancestors. Their earlier decisions, right or wrong, helped define what might happen to you. The important element in this mixture is knowing history and seeing that there is a direct correlation.
An actual example would be a family cousin from Iowa who went to San Francisco, California after the April 1906 earthquake to work in the clean up and repair of the city. He not only witnessed the struggles of people to get their lives back on course by rebuilding their businesses and homes; he learned what real determination was and later applied that in his own future business operations. How different might his and his descendants’ lives been if he had not be in San Francisco at that time?
There are numerous historical sources in libraries and on the Internet to learn about historical events. One of the best places to learn of events that would have directly affected ancestors is their hometowns. Every community (cities, towns and counties) have their own local historical societies and museums. There places also have records, artifacts, photos surrounding the citizens along with historical events that occurred in the community over the years. To search, Google the hometown, state name along with the keyword of ‘museum’ or ‘historical society.’ Most are very open to assisting people learn about their town’s history and its citizens.
In the town of Jensen Beach, Florida, located in the county of Martin there are a couple historical societies and museums which have details on such local events such as the 1908 fire that nearly wiped out the entire business district. There is also the effect on the community when the production of pineapples was cut because of import of the fruit from Cuba. Both examples demonstrate how an historical event can dramatic change the future for individuals.
Incorporate as much as possible concerning historical events, because they did affect your ancestors; directly or even indirectly.