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    Learning About Ancestors' Lifestyles

    So that your ancestors become more than simply names and dates on your charts, learn about their lifestyles and the social and political affairs of their times. This helps them "come alive" for you, so they are people who actually lived.

    For anyone who enjoys history...and most genealogists do...delving into the society of particular eras and areas proves fascinating. Where do we find this information?

    Some Sources to Check

    • A number of books, offered by Writers' Digest Books, will give you helpful information on different eras of history.

    • Online history sites will help you, too.

    • Look at history books about towns where ancestors lived. Their names may actually be mentioned there.

    • Talk with elderly people about their reminisces regarding more recent history. They may give you clues to follow for information about their and ancestors' lifestyles.

    • Historical societies offer much information which may include letters, journals, and records of an area.

    • Check out any letters and journals that may have been handed down in your family.

    • Historical novels written by authors known for their accurate research gives you a feel of an era and of events in a particular area.

    • If possible, visit the area where ancestors lived. Today these places may be very changed. However, some flavor of the original landscape may remain.

    My Personal Research

    • Quaker Hill, New York - While researching the family of my paternal grandmother, Ella Banks Place, I came across a diary in the local library. This was written by a young woman who had lived in the area of that town, in the 1800s, where my grandmother's family resided and Grandma had grown up. Some of her family members even were mentioned.

      The daily events in the neighborhood were recorded by young Abby Jane and gave me a much better picture and understanding of Quaker Hill, New York when Grandma's father grew up.

    • Kansas - As I research Kansas during the second half of the 1800s, when members of Grandma's paternal and maternal families lived there, I try to find out what life was like. Uncle William Mathewson operated trading posts on the Santa Fe Trail. This sent me to resources about that route across the prairies. I've found actual pictures of the site where one of his trading posts stood and a well that remains.

      Great grandmother Cynthia Irish Banks, three of her sons, and their families settled on ranches near Salina, Kansas. A friend is taking pictures of the cemetery where Grandmother Cynthia is buried and the ranch land where they settled.

    • Hudson River Valley, New York State - In an earlier era of American history, the Palatine from Germany via Holland and England settled in the Hudson River Valley of NYS in 1710. My mom is descended from some of them. They worked on estates of wealthy settlers and formed villages.

      From my reading, I can picture their lives and place my Kuhn (later Coon) and Diepel (Tipple) ancestors in these villages and farms. My grandfather, Burton B. Coon, wrote about them and related some of their stories. This helped make these ancestors more real.

      His descriptions of life during the 1800s, of his parents and later himself, gives me more first hand information with which to write about his life and to understand him.

      When I look at pictures of Papa Coon and his parents, William and Mary Barker Coon, they become more real to me.

    Check out the areas where your ancestors lived; visit them if you can or obtain pictures. Gain knowledge of the social conditions and what may have caused families to move. By learning about their lives you begin to understand a great deal more about your heritage.

    Copyright © 2002 Mary Emma Allen

    Mary Emma Allen researches and writes about her family, as well as about the history of New Hampshire where she lives and her travels around the United States. She's compiling a book of her columns, "New Hampshire of Yesteryear."Her many publications are listed on her Web site --

    The Authentic Self: Journaling Your Joys, Griefs and Everything in Between by Shery Russ

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