Are we getting away from true genealogical pursuits when examining U.S. history?

+7 votes

In the WikiTree News received today:

"A wave of new US history projects are starting up, including ones for ArkansasTennesseeNorth DakotaSouth CarolinaTexas, and Washington.If there isn't one for your favorite genealogical topic or location start it now."

What are your thoughts?

in The Tree House by Judi Stutz G2G6 Pilot (358k points)

3 Answers

+8 votes
I think that genealogy makes history more interesting. My 3rd great grandfather was an English soldier in the 54th Regiment of Foot during the American Revolutionary war. Other ancestors fought for the American side. One answered the call at Lexington.

If you  have an ancestor who came over on the Mayflower or during the great migration, it seem more interesting to know that.
by Frank Gill G2G Astronaut (2.7m points)
Personally, I think, as they say, "You can't have one without the other!" A good working knowledge of history makes the people you are researching come to life for you. They are more than just a set of dates and places. Knowing when a person lives puts things into perspective. For example, When I wrote a book about my husband's ancestors I collected the stories and memories people had of his grandparents not just then birth dates and death dates. One story involved his grandmother doing the laundry for a family of 13 children. The time of this story is important to know... That it wasn't just sticking a load of laundry in an automatic washer, coming back 30 minutes later and putting it in the dryer. It involved an old wringer washer, burning your hands on the hot clothes, loading them into baskets and carrying the heavy wet clothes out to hang on the clothesline to dry. Then taking them off the line and ironing everything because there wasn't permanent press clothing then.

As a former elementary teacher I always thought about the best ways to teach history to my students. Now that I have five grandchildren I still do the same things I did as a teacher and that was to think of  how can it be made real for them in terms of how the people at that time lived. I looked for a person who lived at that time. Often it was one of my own ancestors. For example when teaching about WWII I used my Uncle Roy's v-mail letters to tell the story of the war. Now sadly Uncle Roy did not live to come home, so I used the actual telegram that came to my grandparents to help them understand that sad event.

Hopefully I haven't digressed too far from the topic, but when I work on my genealogy projects it is always helpful to know when the person lived. One family I'm working on now lived in a Pennsylvania Anthracite coal region. It's tragic to see that the children as young as 8 started working in the mines. But that fact might be overlooked if I wasn't up on my history.

To summarize, I think the true meaning of genealogy is understanding not just who our ancestors were, but how they lived in the time that they lived in and traveled on this earth.
Well said.
Nikki, EXACTLY!!! For a kid, its just something to have to remember.... but if it can become personal... Its a whole different story.

A geni-bud helped his nephew, in the 8th grade at the time, with a report on the Baconian Revolt. They wrote the story together, but told of all the relationship connections. Instead of just the Revolt itself, yes, they did cover that, but as an entire genealogical picture and the kid's relationship to each of those participants with all the documentation.  The kid who had been a ho-hum history student before, came Alive!! Now it was personal.

The teacher was impressed, the kid was excited about history, and he got a A.  The next assignment was Benedict Arnold. And they told things about Arnold that just wasn't taught about him when I was in school. And of course, his genealogy.  In both cases, they had the bibliography.
I think that the history part of who our people were is important. I like see that someone's grammar chased off a bear with a broom or killed a mountain lion. Or severed in the Revolutionary War. Since only about 8 percent of the people who  lived in what became America fought for its Freedom.  I want to know who those people were. What's the point in knowing your genealogy if you don't know who your people were.
+3 votes
I think having projects narrowed down actually help genealogy.  If you stare at the entire world tree, it can get a little overwhelming.  Having the projects can draw in people who may not give a fig about whats going on in one area, but have tons of knowledge in another that they feel is important to share.
by Kellie Rhodes G2G6 Mach 3 (36.9k points)
+5 votes
Often we get so narrow focused on proving that one particular relationship or finding that brickwall busting source that we forget to stop and survey the bigger picture.  Context matters and the mind needs new and fresh approaches from time to time.  Taking time away from pure genealogical pursuits to review the history of a location and taking the time to understand the world as it was presented to our ancestors will often give us new insights and better understanding of both old sources we have found and provide us with new ideas for sources to track down.

I would love to see more historical contexts for Non-US locations.   I am about to explore Danish genealogy for the first time to help out a local community member.  I desperately need that context to be a better researcher.
by Michael Stills G2G6 Pilot (537k points)

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