As a family historian, one is interested in gathering the names, places and dates of our numerous relatives. However, there is more to learning about one’s ancestors than just a series of dates. Each of those dates represents an important event or a life-changing moment that well could have changed future generations also.
True, it is very hard to envisage such events that happened some 70 to 100 years or more ago, a time long before 21st century digital cameras. Even with the use of portable home film movie cameras from the 1940s and 1950s, not all family events were captured on film for future descendants.
If you are fortunate enough to have such home movies, treasure them and make sure they are preserved, do not delay, each day they are deteriorating further. Locate those old reels of film and have the film transferred to a digital format such as a DVD. Most photo shops can easily complete that serve at a reasonable price. Then have duplicate copies of the disc made and share with other family members.
So you looked and asked other family members and there just are no films or even photos of a special family occasion. This is especially true the further back in time the event took place. However, if you do have the exact date there is another way to at least get a sense of the day, that moment in time.
Many of the nation’s newspapers have been saved, placed on microfilm and many others digitalize to be viewed on the Internet. By locating a newspaper from either the actual town the family event occurred or at least a nearby city, a researcher can get the exact day’s newspaper to learn what was happening on that day.
For example, you have your great grandparents’ wedding date of April 27, 1888 in Frederick, Maryland. By locating either the microfilm or better yet the online digital copy of The News newspaper for Frederick, you can a learn so much of what was happening. Right away you see the advertisement for the type of products available and their prices. Surely your great grandmother would have worn ladies button leather shoes, a mere $1.24 a pair or a beautiful kid gloves to wear at just 50 cents a pair.
Special other attractions were written about such as the Barnum & Bailey’s Three-Ring Circus in town. If your ancestors were not going out of town for a honeymoon they could have gone to see this well-known entertainment show. For sure they might have seen the big street parade through town of the circus animals and performers.
The hotels in Frederick posted their guests’ names and where they were from. There could easily be a listing of another relative in Frederick to attend the wedding.
An important item to read about is the weather that day. That will provide real insight of that wedding day, was it storming or a pleasant warm spring day?
Any major news events in the region, state or nation will also be in the newspaper. Imagine how fascinating to learn of some important news event occurring the same day your ancestors married.
So make it a fun project, pick any family event; the birth of a child, a wedding, a soldier returning from the Army, a new job or high school graduation and see what you can learn also happened that day. Newspaper articles of those dates are the most direct and informative source a researcher can use.