Weekly Planner: Find a Story

When you’re intent on your family history quest, it’s easy to develop tunnel vision and forget to look for the stories in the records we find. With the click of a mouse we can add records and source information to our family tree in software or online at Ancestry. But are we taking the time to really read the record and examine it, not just for clues, but for the stories. Gather several records you have for your ancestor for a particular time period. Did one census show the head of the household was unemployed for a time during the census year? Did some of the older have an occupation listed as they worked to supplement the family income? Put the records in the context of history and look for events that would have impacted them at the time the record was created. By looking beyond the clues and at the implications of events, you’ll be able to better understand and preserve your family story. 

What stories have you uncovered through the records you’ve found? Share your family stories in the comments section below.

5 thoughts on “Weekly Planner: Find a Story

  1. A published Weaver family genealogy from the beginning of last century mentioned my Weaver and his two wives, but never mentioned how his first marriage ended. I think that we were just supposed to assume that the woman died, but no death date appeared. This piqued my curiosity.

    I pegged where he was living during this basic period, and not expecting much (but hopeful), I wrote to that area of NY for a possible divorce record.

    Whoa Nelly, did I hit the jackpot!

    His first wife stopped sleeping with him at one point several years after their marriage, and took up with another man while still married to this cousin. She and this 2nd man moved around the Buffalo area, living in various rooming houses, and presenting themselves as a married couple.

    The woman THEN became pregnant by her paramour, and had a daughter from this union.

    When she was presented with the divorce petition by her brother-in-law, she asked him why the cousin hadn’t come himself “so she could throw him down the stairs” !

    This was all included in the couples’ divorce record. He was granted the divorce and custody of their children, and was allowed the privilege of marrying again as if the wife had died. She was not given that option, and her daughter was officially declared illegitimate.

    This stuff really did happen back then too, only it was not dicussed in polite society. You have to find the records to get the juicy stories!

  2. As I was searching for my great-great grandmother in the Indiana census records, I was surprised to be unable to find her in the town in which she had lived since her marriage. I did a more general search for her without specifying the state, and found her with all her siblings at her parents’ farm in Ohio. When I checked the date the census was taken, it was only a few days before her mother’s date of death. I took it to mean that all the children had come home to be with their mother in her last days.

  3. THank you for that suggestion. I do not add stories to my genealogies as a rule, but it might be helpful to look at the things you mentioned when I am dealing with censuses late enough to include such. Roy L. Howard

  4. Thanks for these suggestions. I like to look for the stories behind the records. I like to look at my ancestors’ listings in city directories, and see when children started working and when other relatives came to live with them.

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