You are gathering the names, dates and hometowns of members on your family tree. You might also want to step your research up to learn more on each individual or family, their occupations, skills, religious beliefs, etc.
However, to really better understand the life in whatever time frame you are examining you have to view your ancestors in a historical context. What does that mean? Simply finding the elements that permeate the lives of every person; the local history of where they were born, the events that may have shaped their lives, and their living conditions can provide some measure of explanation about who they were as people. What local, state, national or world events could have directly affected a relative and changed their life and maybe yours for the future forever — that is historical context.
So how to start to learn about the history affecting your ancestor is to create a time line. Between the time of a person’s birth, their schooling, marriage and death; you need to find out what historical events occurred.
Using the Internet to search locations, times and events is a great way to start. Another great search area are the local hometown museums which have artifacts, records and photos of events relating to that town. They can also have information about some of the town’s leading citizens which just might include one or two of your ancestors.
Public libraries across the country or in local family hometowns are rich in information about the local historical events. There might be newspaper articles on microfilm, books, journals or notebooks filled with local historical occurrences.
The main advice is to become a detective – become curious about history — such as how economic conditions changed, pioneers in covered wagons, did the railroad come through the area, were there any major weather events (floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes), were there problems with Native Indian uprisings, what industries developed, and so on.
Mix in your family tree some history.
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