Tell Your Ancestor’s Story: Use Social History for Genealogy

Do you wish you knew more about your ancestor’s everyday life experience? Use social history for genealogy: to fill in the gaps between documented events.

social history for genealogy family history

Recently we heard from Barbara Starmans, a social historian, genealogist and longtime listener of three of Lisa’s podcasts. She wrote to share a new blog she started.

“While I’ve maintained my Out of My Tree Genealogy blog for many years, I’ve just launched The Social Historian, a longform story website featuring social history themed articles from across the centuries and around the world.”

Social history is about “the lives of ordinary people,” explains Barbara. “It is a view of history from the bottom up, rather than from the top down…. [It’s about] understanding…how people lived, worked and played in their daily lives. It is often the minutia of someone’s life that tells the story of who they were and what they believed in.”

“By exploring social history, you will be able to research all the circumstances of your ancestors’ lives and to build their life stories from the details you find.” Barbara send us a great list that we adapted and boiled down to a few core topics:

  • Life cycle: Birth and birthing customs, health and lifestyle practices, medicine, diseases and epidemics, mental health, mortality rates, death and burial customs.
  • Life at home: Clothing and fashion, food and cooking, housekeeping, land and property, alcohol and drug use.
  • Life at work: Economy (prices, cost of living and salaries), occupations, working conditions and the labor movement, businesses and employers, social welfare and relief.
  • Relationships: Morality, marriage and divorce, children and childhood, ethnicity and prejudices,
  • Community life: Celebrations and holidays, traditions, education, language and literacy, religion/church, faith, crime and punishment, societal unrest, leisure pursuits.
  • Game changers: War, emigration, inventions, transportation, communication, slavery and emancipation.

Barbara’s social history blog gives lots of great examples of her belief that “beyond just names and dates, those who came before us have a story to tell….By learning about their time and place and how they lived in it, you can add to your understanding of who they were.”

Resources

Genealogists Google Toolbox 2nd edition cover

The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox by Lisa Louise Cooke is packed with strategies for learning about your ancestors’ lives online. There’s an entire chapter on using Google Scholar for genealogy!

Where can you look for social history online? I’d start with these sites:

1. Make sure you’re using all of Google’s fantastic resources, including Google Books and Google Scholar

2. Click to find Social history resources at the Library of Congress

3. American Social History Project at the City University of New York

Have fun! I think learning about the everyday lives of our ancestors is one of the most fascinating parts of family history.

media_icon_like_400_wht_9163Thanks for sharing this post with others who will enjoy it!

Ancestry Up for Sale? How to Download and Backup Your Ancestry Data

Ancestry for saleReuters recently reported that Ancestry “is exploring a sale that could value it at between $2.5 billion and $3 billion, including debt.” According to unnamed sources, Permira (a buyout firm that owns most of Ancestry) “has hired investment banks to run an auction for the company.”

It’s far too soon to say what this might mean for paying customers, users of Ancestry Library Edition and corporate and community partners. The sale of a company can mean possible changes in direction and organization. Ancestry currently boasts delivery of 15 billion genealogy records to 2.1 million subscribers, and has stated its intent to acquire additional records at an aggressive pace. In an ever changing corporate and technological environment we believe it’s important to retain ownership and responsibility of our own data.

Our best advice to those whose master family trees are on Ancestry? Download and backup your data! We’re not being alarmist. This announcement is just a good opportunity to do something we routinely recommend anyway.

First, download your current tree(s) to GEDCOM files onto your computer. Under the Trees tab, choose Create and Manage Trees. For each tree you have there, choose Manage Tree, then Export Tree.

Next, check your sources! The Ancestry help section states, “Any pictures, charts, books, views, or similar items found in the original file will not be included in the [downloaded] GEDCOM. Vital information, notes, and sources are usually retained after conversion.” Check your GEDCOM to see whether your source notes are intact. Then make sure you have copies of documents, videos, photos and other items you may have attached to your tree. You don’t want them to disappear, should there be a hiccup (or worse) in service.

Finally, if you have used AncestryDNA, download a copy of your raw DNA data. We especially recommend this step! These tests are expensive. Tests for loved ones who are now deceased can’t be re-rerun. And Ancestry has disposed of DNA samples in the past when the company has switched directions. (Again, not trying to be alarmist, just cautious.)

how to start a genealogy blogIf you have relied on Ancestry or any other cloud-based service to host your only or master family tree, we recommend you do your homework and consider your options. Please click here to read a blog post about keeping your master tree on your own computer at home, and which software may be best for you.

Click here to Start Your Free Family Tree at Ancestry 

 

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

Here’s our weekly roundup of cool new genealogy records online. Should you search any of these: an 1831 England census substitute; parish records for Hertfordshire; images of French forts in North America; Michigan death records; outgoing passenger lists for the US and War of 1812 pension records?

ENGLAND 1831 CENSUS SUBSTITUTE. There’s a new 1831 census substitute database at Findmypast!  England, Pollbooks and Directories 1830-1837  allows you to discover where your ancestors lived, how they earned a living and how they voted. This collection of assorted documents also plugs the important gap left by the lack of a complete 1831 census.”

ENGLAND PARISH REGISTERS. Findmypast now has a browsable collection of parish records for Hertfordshire. The collection spans 1538-1988: that’s 450 years and 1.9 million pages of baptisms, marriages and burials.

NEW FRANCE. Library & Archives Canada has published a new Flickr photo collection with images of North American forts built or captured by the French during the era of New France. It’s free to explore and the history is fascinating!

MICHIGAN DEATHS. A new collection of  Michigan Death Records, 1857-1960 is available to Ancestry.com subscribers. Death registers and certificates contain varying amounts of genealogical information.

US TRAVELERS ABROAD. Ancestry.com has a new database of departing passengers and crew from various U.S. locations (1916-1962) by ship and air. These include military transports. “Details requested on the forms varied, but they typically include the name of the vessel, departure date, ports of departure and destination, shipmaster, full name, age, gender, physical description, military rank (if any), occupation, birthplace, citizen of what country, and residence.” Later documents may include visa or passport information.

WAR OF 1812 PENSIONS (US). Images of pension records for US soldiers with surnames beginning A-M have been posted on Fold3, where they are available to view for FREE. This is part of the ongoing Preserve the Pensions project led by the Federation of Genealogical Societies. Click here to learn more and contribute to funding for this crowd-sourced effort.

google for genealogy quoteLooking for a specific type of record about your ancestor? Want to find more new genealogy records online yourself? Click here for step-by-step instructions on using Google to search for specific records.

 

Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 129

Get inspired in Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode 129! You’ll hear about church records and YouTube for genealogy, locating hard-to-find records and–even better–locating ancestors’ parents.

How many ways can you think of to find family history? Lisa Louise Cooke can think of a lot–and she packs as many of them as possible into the newly-published Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode #129.

In this members-only podcast, Lisa starts off with a rundown of some great new genealogy records online. I particularly enjoyed the back story she shares on the 1939 Register recently released by Findmypast for England and Wales.

Then Lisa tackles a tough two-part question that a listener sent in. We follow along with this listener’s progress in trying to track down an elusive record type. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t pan out. (Sound familiar?) So then it’s back to the drawing board with some follow-up Genealogy Gems advice and great feedback from yet another listener! I love how this show segment shows the inside process of multi-step research problems.

youtube genealogyA segment on YouTube for family history follows. Lisa is so great at figuring out how to use everyday buy adhd medication online technologies and online resources for family history, and YouTube is no exception. I admit I was a bit skeptical the first time I read about searching YouTube for ancestors in Lisa’s book, The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, but I have since found some amazing things on YouTube. Don’t miss these tips!

Two guests join the show today. First is an exclusive Gems interview sabrina Riley Genealogy Gems Podcast Church Recordswith Sabrina Riley, a Library Director at Union College. Sabrina oversees an archive of Seventh-Day Adventist church records and gives us great tips on using these (and other denominational records) for genealogy.

Then Diahan Southard chimes in with an insightful DNA commentary on when our DNA circles don’t necessarily result in family connections.

Genealogy Gems Premium Membership and PodcastWhat a great lineup! If you’re a Genealogy Gems Premium website member, sign in and then click here and start listening. If you’re not, click here to learn more about the benefits of Genealogy Gems Premium membership. Listening to this exclusive podcast episode is just ONE of MANY benefits you’ll receive for an entire year!

Annie Barrows Talks Family History and The Truth According to Us

Annie Barrow interviewIf you’ve read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, you know how brilliantly co-author Annie Barrows stitched together letters, conversations and history in her fictional love story and account of the Nazi-occupied island of Guernsey during World War II. I love that book. So I was super excited to hear her talking on The Diane Rehm Show recently about her new book, The Truth According to Us: A Novel.

Of course, Annie read from the opening of her book, which made me put it at the top of my reading list. Then she talked about how history can be so different, depending on who is telling the story and from what perspective. I loved her take on small-town history and family history: how it’s remembered so deeply and passionately by its own, and often so mis-remembered or mis-represented by outsiders.

Here’s the book summary from Amazon:

“In the summer of 1938, Layla Beck’s father, a United States senator, cuts off her allowance and demands that she find employment on the Federal Writers’ Project, a New Deal jobs program. Within days, Layla finds herself far from her accustomed social whirl, assigned to cover the history of the remote mill town of Macedonia, West Virginia, and destined, in her opinion, to go completely mad with boredom. But once she secures a room in the home of the unconventional Romeyn family, she is drawn into their complex world and soon discovers that the truth of the town is entangled in the thorny past of the Romeyn dynasty.

At the Romeyn house, twelve-year-old Willa is desperate to learn everything in her quest to acquire her favorite virtues of ferocity and devotion—a search that leads her into a thicket of mysteries, including the questionable business that occupies her charismatic father and the reason her adored aunt Jottie remains unmarried. Layla’s arrival strikes a match to the family veneer, bringing to light buried secrets that will tell a new tale about the Romeyns. As Willa peels back the layers of her family’s past, and Layla delves deeper into town legend, everyone involved is transformed—and their personal histories completely rewritten.”

Annie did talk about the Guernsey book, too. I hadn’t realized her aunt wrote the original manuscript, then became too ill to do the rewrites her publisher wanted. So Annie took on the task. As the author of the acclaimed Ivy and Bean children’s series, clearly she was up to the task. But she didn’t dream it would become an international best-seller!

Genealogy Gems Book Club Genealogy Family HistoryThat’s my latest recommendation as the “curator” of the Genealogy Gems Book Club. We recommend mainstream fiction and nonfiction titles that resonate with people who love family history. Up soon on the Genealogy Gems Book Club schedule: our interview with author Nathan Dylan Goodwin, author of The Lost Ancestor (The Forensic Genealogist) (we’ll put the link up on the Book Club page when it’s ready). We also recently published this new companion list of how-to genealogy books we love.

 

Pin It on Pinterest

MENU