Known for her Southern cooking and hospitality, celebrity chef Paula Deen searched for more information about her Southern roots on the season finale of Who Do You Think You Are? Better still, Deen picked up a new skill along the way – she found out just what you have to do to turn records and history into a family’s personal story.
Here’s how it happened: Deen was trying to reconstruct an ancestor’s life following the Civil War. So she turned to tax records from the 1870s. Individually those records didn’t seem to say much. But once Deen created a handwritten grid, the tax information began to tell a story. Noting the number of hired hands, acres and value of the land and personal estate over the years, Deen saw a rapid financial decline in 1874. Plotting her ancestor’s fortunes against what was going on in the U.S. at the time, it was apparent that his financial situation took a drastic downturn during the country’s depression.
But Deen didn’t dwell on the negative. Instead she chose to draw strength from these past events and look to the future. It’s a lesson for everyone who dives into their family history – learn from it and grow.
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