Where Were Your Ancestors during a Historic Event?

Researching about your ancestors, going back generations is quite exciting and you never know what you will uncover. Of course, it is not just gathering names, dates, and locations, your ancestors experienced so many things during their lives. Trying to find those events and happenings they were directly involved with can be the most difficult part of your research.

To assist, see if any letters, diaries, journals exist that they or family members wrote. There could be clues there. One of the family letters handed down over the generations to me was dated December 1863. In the letter the writer, a relative wrote of seeing another relative upon the tall platform stage in November seated with all the dignitaries and guests in attendance for this dedication. The writer wrote of many people in attendance all remembering the sacrifice of lives for those who died in that location.

Nowhere in the letter was an exact date given of the event, names of individuals or what the dedication was for. It wasn’t until researching where each ancestor related to this letter was living in their nearby hometown and other details for 1863 did it dawn on me what was actually being described.

Both the writer of the letter and the gentleman relative seated on the platform stage lived just outside of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in 1863. The gentleman’s only son, a soldier in the Union Army, had just died in early November 1863 while in a Confederate POW camp. So it was very possible that the ancestor on the platform on November 19, 1863, was a witness to President Lincoln’s 272-word ‘Gettysburg Address’. He may have been asked to be present due to his son’s recent death, he was a predominate merchant and he lived nearby.

If you have not found family documents such as letters, always look to what historical events are occurring nearby family hometowns. If you had ancestors living in the city of Atlanta, Georgia or just outside the city in the counties of Fulton or DeKalb, in July and August of 1864, they would have been directly affected by the siege of Atlanta by Union forces. The evaluation of civilians from Atlanta followed in September 1864 and finally the burning of city structures on November 15, 1864, by forces led by Union General William Tecumseh Sherman.

These two examples are from America’s Civil War, but there are other historical events across the nation and territories what could have impacted your ancestors. Reviewing hometown newspapers for the time frames your ancestors lived there could provide some information.

Any major weather conditions; tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, or winter blizzards could have affected your ancestors. Checking the weather history of a family hometown could provide some insight.

These are just some that represent important historical events, sometimes life-changing events which might have altered your family’s future. They are essential and need to be investigated and included with your family history, so making a more complete life story.

Photos: Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in 1863; Siege of Atlanta in 1864; and the great blizzard of NYC in 1888.

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Tell Your Mom’s Story

Success with Family History

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