So much unknown and yet there is a great deal a family historian can piece together about their ancestors. After gathering vital records, documents, journals; a researcher really needs to take some time to see if any patterns of behavior emerge and if such actions can be directly traced to a historical event.
Examples of how historical events can affect your ancestors and their descendants is when an individual or a family moved for a specific purpose. The ancestors who went to California in 1848 or after wards during the California Gold Rush, didn’t always return home, but rather brought their family to California or started a family there. Leaving one’s hometown back east based on gold discovered in another region is a good example of history making a major change. Another move were the thousands of families who moved permanently to a new location, most to California, during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s on the Great Plains. Here again future generations would then be born and raised in California, Oregon or Washington instead of Kansas, Oklahoma or Texas.
Times of war, a historical event, really make major changes to a family and future descendants. Those ancestors killed in battle may have left a widow and young children or never been able to father any children. This certainly changes the future for those surviving. Also numerous young women became ‘old maids’ or even married later in life because there were not enough men left in their community to marry. That is an interesting study, see how many of your female ancestors (aunts) never married. See if it relates to them being of a young marriageable age during a war.
The Federal governmental Homestead Act of 1862 really changed many lives. It was not just offering 160 acres to an individual in the far west portion of the United States, but it included homesteading in Florida. A person stakeout a section of surveyed government land, stayed and worked the land for a period of five years and then they could apply for full ownership of that property. It allowed immigrants, farmers without their own land, single women and former slaves to qualify to own land. Homesteaders also had the option of purchasing the land from the government for $1.25 per acre (what a bargain). The Homestead Act led to the distribution of 80 million acres of public land by the year 19000. That government law changed thousands of people’s future.
The cotton gin was invented in 1793, that had an impact of many families who turned their land into cash crop cotton fields. Steamboat travel along the country’s major rivers started in the 1810s and allowed people to travel much easier and to get needed supplies to remote areas. This event was repeated with the development and expansion over the decades of the mid-to-late 1800s of the railroad. When a train station came to your ancestor’s hometown, that turned changed their lives, in many ways.
The list is endless, just take a certain family branch, focus on time period and see what local, state or national historical events could have impacted their lives. It could turn out to be a fascinating discovery.
Photo: Poster about available homestead land.< Return To Blog