Beginning Genealogy Lesson #11: Local Histories
[The original version of this lesson was published on AOL in 1996. However, the occurrences of natural disasters, political intrigue and social unrest have not subsided.] I have been deeply moved lately by television reports of the terrible tragedies the weather is causing in our great nation and throughout the world. This morning there was a report of the seven Israeli school girls on a field trip who were killed by a Jordanian soldier.
Earlier today [in 1996] on Good Morning America, the comment was made that despite these terrible tragedies, people pull together and become stronger. Entire communities pull together. I have seen this in our own south Florida in the terrible aftermath of Hurricane Andrew. Many silent heroes sacrificed their time and talents to help the unfortunate victims. Others who could not travel to the area sent food, clothing, bedding, money -- whatever they could spare, to help their fellow men without regard to religious, ethnic or cultural differences. Its at times like this one's true colors are shown -- providing a true test of the human spirit!
Similar stories are unfolding in the Ohio and Arkansas area of this country. Unspeakable destruction by Mother Nature has completely uprooted the lives of residents there. Collections of memories, family papers and photos have been whisked away without a moment's notice! As genealogists we especially appreciate the loss of such precious evidence of one's heritage. I pray that those concerned will be comforted, and applaud the efforts of those who provide support in time of need.
During the last two months I have been doing a lot of research on the Irish potato famine of the mid 1840s using surviving reports from newspapers and diaries. Earlier in 1709, I recall that my German ancestors left the Palatine region following a winter so cold that "birds froze in flight." (from the Journal of Johannes Conrad Weiser.)
We all have ancestors who have survived the plague of the locust, spring floods, frontier Indian raids, bouts of cholera, death in childbirth, political coups and the establishment of trade unions. Somehow despite the onslaught of war, the bubonic plague and reigns of terror, our ancestors lived to provide some form of subsistence for their children.
As you continue your family history research, you'll need to move from finding the original documents of birth, marriage and death to reading contemporary diaries and printed local histories.
From these write-ups (however biased) you can see the economic, cultural and, yes, even barometric influences on the lives of your progenitors.
WHERE DO YOU FIND LOCAL HISTORIES? The answer to this question is quite detailed. Our list of sources has been modified somewhat in recent years, owing to advances in technology. Therefore, I've divided up the remainder of this lesson into four additional articles:
Beginning Lesson #11a - Books
Beginning Lesson #11b - Genealogy & History magazines
Beginning Lesson #11c - Microfilm & Fiche
Beginning Lesson #11d - Genealogy CDs
Beginning Lesson #11e - Online Transcriptions
Happy family tree climbing!
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