Researching the Landscape
I live in a rural county and do a lot of research for people who cannot come to our area. They frequently want to know what the area is like. We describe the (lack of) roads, the flat land, etc.
I recently decided to try the same thing for my children and grandchildren. Our roots are heavy in Pennsylvania. When one drives through there it is lovely to see the tiny communities tucked in between the mountains. I am going to start taking photos of the areas our roots grew in. Since we were there pre-Revolutionary War, I have started reading articles describing the hardships at that time.
My grandmother was born in Nebraska in 1903. Most of the housing there was sod houses. She and her two oldest brothers were born there. I have done some Web searching and located photos of several types of sod houses and have printed them off.
Families are so much more than names and dates. This is making ours come alive.
Save Old Address Books
Don’t overlook old address books for some surprise connections. My grandfather died at ninety-two, and he kept the same address book for years. In this address book, addresses were updated by simply marking through and adding the new above or below. Some of the names had kinship shown, as in “Oliver’s granddaughter.” There was also a separate Christmas card list.
I was actually able to take some of these names and locations and connect to a lost branch of my family. Some of the older address books are almost a family history in themselves. Be sure to keep them when old papers and items are sorted through after a death.
Widowed May Not Mean Widowed
Donâ€™t assume that â€œwdâ€ means widowed in the census. There were many more divorces in the nineteenth and early twentieth century than one would guess. However, many women listed themselves as â€œwidowedâ€ rather than divorced; and men would list themselves as â€œsingle.â€ The women would typically have children with them, so could not easily state that they were â€œsingle.â€ Many times the men did not have the children, so they could more easily call themselves â€œsingleâ€ without much question. Do not count the former spouse dead until you find a death record. I have found this situation several times in my family lines.
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