Stuck at a brick wall in your research? Maybe it's time to take a break from looking for information on people and try some old-fashioned background work. Originally, I wrote this post to show that old fashioned methods are still pertinent and do work, I was afraid newer genealogists couldn't relate to research not involving computers so ... take your pick or use both methods.
1. In the back of magazines, look for travel listings on the area where your ancestor lived. This information is directed at vacationers, but can be helpful in pointing out attractions in a specific area. Perhaps one of these attractions existed during your ancestor's lifetime. If you must use your computer, Google the town and/or county where your ancestor lived and find out what historical events may have impacted your ancestor's life.
2. Obtain a county map where your ancestor lived, preferably a map showing rivers and streams. Use the map to determine how close your ancestor lived to the county seat and also to other relatives. County maps can usually be ordered from the local Chamber of Commerce and are often free. You can also use Google maps, but I find it more convenient to spread out a map on my desk and I like to use a highlighter to mark places of importance.
3. Read a history of the state and/or county where your ancestor lived. Note the economic and social events during his lifetime. These events may have influenced his actions, especially if he moved during that particular time. Your local library can help locate the books you need. Also, try Google Books for histories that may be in the public domain and can be read online.
4. If your ancestor moved from one area to another, draw a line from the old area to the new area on a map. Be aware of rivers and streams he had to cross. Were there roads or did he have to forge a way in order to travel? Determine the ages of family members and what hardships they may have endured during the migration. Don't be afraid to use your imagination.
5. Visit your library to see if they receive newspapers from the state and/or county where your ancestor lived. If not, subscribe to the online version of the local newspaper, even if only for 30 days. Many county and town newspapers have regular columns featuring news from the past. You may not see your ancestor's name listed, but you will get an idea of what life was like in the past.
While none of these suggestions is guaranteed to provide new information on your ancestors, they may give you some new ideas on why they lived in a particular area, how they got there and what important events occurred during their lifetime. Knowledge is a good thing.
Published 29 October 2015, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog, http://wkygenealogy.blogspot.com/