Thursday, August 16, 2012

Understanding History Is An Important Part Of Genealogy

I teach my kids History is a story. It's not boring facts and dates to memorize then forget. History is a narrative of the past...of those who lived before us.

If you think about our days...the cars we drive, the wars we fight, the choices we make, the jobs we have...all will one day just be facts and be studied and then forgotten. But wait, you say, that's not right! We don't want our daily struggles and accomplishments to be treated so inconsequential, but then neither did the generations before us.

A hundred years from now future generations may wonder why families lost their homes or moved across the country away from their families just for a job. But if they knew the story of our economic crisis they could answer those questions. The choices wouldn't seem so out of the ordinary. Just like today we look back at those who lived during the Great Depression ,and if the ancestor we are searching for lived during that time, it may help us understand some of the motivations behind their decisions.

Facts about our ancestors, when and where they were born, where they're buried, the date they were married are all important to know, but I would argue that digging deeper into the lives of our ancestors to reveal the story behind each person is far more important. Because the basic information really only provides a basic frame work. The true story is in the little details.

I've always been more interested in the stories behind the names. During my research I found out that Judith Flaugh married Martin Betts and I want to know about their daily lives together. Was it a love match? I learn that Matthias Flaugh Jr. dies at 44, leaving his wife Hannah and 9 children behind and I want to know how he died. Was Hannah devastated? But because I know my history I know that in 1831 life would have difficult for Hannah and her children. How did she cope? What happened to her children? Did her family step in, or did his, to help support her and the children? But then I learn that Hannah had 3 more husbands and I know that she was a survivor. There is also one heck of a story there!!

Stories and photographs are another way to help fill in that frame. But sadly we aren't always fortunate enough to have these things and definitely not for each person.

Of all the ancestors I've researched Hannah intrigues me the most. I'd love to one day find an image of her. And I'd really like to find out how Matthias died.

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