from Michael John NeillÂ
Some clues can be overlooked if the family historian fails to keep the historical perspective in mind. The January 1888 obituary of Frances Trautvetter mentions three people attending her funeral, listing the town in which they live.
This may not appear to be a significant clue. However, when one considers the approximately thirty-mile distance these three people would have traveled to attend the funeral and the likely condition of Illinois roads in the month of January, a stronger clue emerges. These three individuals are people who need to be researched; they weren’t just out for a winter drive. Traveling that distance in the middle of winter was not done without just cause and there likely is some connection between Francis and the three out-of-town people at her funeral. Of course the newspaper does not make mention of any relationship.Â Â
Why? Most likely because everyone who knew Francis already knew why the people from out of town were attending. Newspaper space was at a premium; the newspaper was not going to print what everyone already knew–those kinds of things are not news.
Remember to fit your ancestor’s actions (and the actions of others) into a historical perspective. If the action was unusual or would have required a great deal of effort for the time period, check it out. It is worth remembering that what we consider unusual by today’s standards might not have been so unusual one or two hundred years ago. Learn about the region, the time period, and your ancestor’s social and economic class and ethnic group before reaching any conclusions about “unusual” behavior.
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