Sunday, March 24, 2013

Are you making assumptions based on a 21st century perspective?

Often times when we are looking back on our ancestors we are looking at the from a 21st century perspective. It is important to do a little research into the events going on the area they live as well as the social norms for the time period that would effect their decision making. The more understanding of the outside things in their lives the better we will understand why they made the decisions they did.

A common element of our ancestor's lives that is hard to understand is travel. Due to limitations of what they were using to travel common migration patterns were created. In our early history the use of wagons and beasts of burden slowed the travel. Restrictions occurred on what routes you were able to take. They did not have planes, trains or automobiles. Traveling with use of waterways and Indian trails were common.

If you look at the migration out of New England they followed very set routes. Ironically all old Indian Trails that brought them into the interior. You did not travel off the beaten path. Cities would pop along these trails. That is why you find ancestors living in similar places as they moved west. In the early stages of the migration it would take months to get to Ohio or Michigan. With the development of the Erie Canal you were down to weeks. Ship and train travel were soon to follow. The ease of travel to the interior got a whole lot easier and affordable.

People also traveled with other people then new. You did not travel alone due to the high amount of risk. They traveled with family members and other people that lived in the community.

Another item that causes limits with the travel issue is the ability to file vital records. If your ancestor lived in a rural setting the ability to travel into the county seat may takes days. What we think of today as a twenty minute drive often took our ancestors a day. Time was precious then and they tended to use their time in different ways.

Understand the limits of their culture. Do some work to understand it through some study. You will be amazed at the light you will gain into your ancestors lives through a better understanding.
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