Friday, January 1, 2010

The Reasons Why ...

No one lives in total isolation. Events in our neighborhood, our town, our state and our country affect the way we live and define our place in the world. If there is a financial recession, the result may be the loss of our job or our home. If there is a war, we may take sides and fight on one side or the other. This was true years ago and is true today. To understand the lives of our ancestors, we need to know the events - good or bad - they faced.

Did the creation of a new county affect your ancestor? If he was living in Caldwell County in 1820, but is not there in 1830, did he actually move or did he live in the part that became Hickman County in 1821? Where will you find records of this ancestor before and after Hickman was formed?

Did your ancestor disappear in 1833 or 1849 or 1873? Could he have been a victim of one of the cholera epidemics that hit Kentucky?

Maybe your ancestor was in Kentucky in 1840, but, by 1850, he was in California. Was he infected by gold fever and went west to "strike it rich?" How might he have traveled to California? Did he go alone or with others? How was life in California different than life in Kentucky?

Babies are given names for a reason - maybe they were named for a member of the family or maybe they were named for a non-member, but someone your family admired. Was your ancestor one of the many men named Linn Boyd? Was he named for Linn Boyd, Speaker of the House of Representatives from Trigg County 1851 - 1855? Why were so many males named Lorenzo Dow?

The Civil War forced Kentuckians to examine their feelings about slavery and states' rights. How did Kentucky Governor Magoffin stand during the Civil War affect the neutrality of Kentucky? Which side did your ancestor choose? How was his life affected because of his choice?

Did your ancestor mortgage everything he had in 1873, only to lose it all? Was it due to the financial panic that year that caused hard and trying times throughout the state?

Genealogy is more than a list of names and dates. Events near and far affect our life choices and, coupled with our cultural, religious and political beliefs determine how we live our lives. To better understand why our ancestors made certain decisions, we must learn as much as possible about them, including the events they experienced.


Brenda Joyce Jerome, CG said...

Thanks, John. I have been thinking about this for some time and it seems to me that we just skim the surface if we don't explore the reasons why our ancestors took certain actions.

Terry Winchester said...

Regarding the quote below, which counties were affected by the cholera outbreak of 1873? Could Marshall County have been affected?

"Did your ancestor disappear in 1833or 1849 or 1873? Could he have been a victim of one of the cholera epidemics that hit Kentucky?"

Brenda Joyce Jerome, CG said...

A good county history should mention if cholera was a problem in Marshall County. Newspapers, if they still exist, should also mention it.