Ancestors in Space and Time
With the extreme heat, smoke, and humidity this week, I’ve had no excuse to put off gathering research and analyzing the information. I’m particularly interested in finding my ancestor’s mother’s death record. This record has eluded me and so I’ve turned to researching my ancestor’s siblings and families in space and time. I know that the parent didn’t travel to the United States, so the mystery lies with her children and grandchildren. By finding more information about them, I hope to find where this mystery lady is in space and time.
Many of us started out our family research gathering information from relatives. We focused on getting the B/M/D records of our direct line. Sometimes we jotted down the siblings and children but other times we were razor focused on completing our direct ancestor line. Afterall, who cares about Uncle Fred? As family historians, we should. If you have been doing your research for a longer time, you quickly realize that this information about siblings might give you key information about your own relative in space and time. Here are some ways that I’ve found this information to be helpful.
I’m currently working on a family branch that resided in Paris, France in the late 1800s and early 1900s. This should be a piece of cake, right? Well until I learned that Paris has 20 districts or Arrondissements. To research the online records, you need to know which Arrondissement your ancestor lived in. Rather than slogging through many records, I found a clue on a relative’s wedding photograph. It was the address of the photography studio. My guess was that the bridal couple would have used a “local” business and that helped me to find this couple’s marriage record and the address of their parents. This also helped me discover siblings’ marriage records in the same Arrondissement. Thankfully, they have annual and ten-year tables to consult. Why do I mention this? Because once married, these couples moved about Paris and the local suburbs (beyond the 20 districts), I’m trying to find a direct ancestor who was widowed and likely lived with one of her children. She has disappeared from the obvious records, so my hope is to find her with one of her family members.
Most people who immigrated to the United States and Canada came with people from their neighborhood or with family or knew of family in a particular town. It is a rare tale of someone traveling alone, knowing no one. So, to for the patriarchs of the family. As they aged, they did not live out their days alone…at least I hope that wasn’t the case. Most homes were multigenerational and included the parents, grandparents, and children. If your ancestor moved away from the home place, look to their siblings to learn more family tidbits…especially those that stayed on the homeplace. That history is part of their daily life. I’ve also found it helpful to check into the births, marriages, and deaths of the siblings’ children. You can find tidbits to help you on your information trail.
Obituaries of Siblings
When you read the obituaries, pay special attention to who attended. The out-of-town guests are often noted with where they are from. Not only does this give you a location to research, but it also tells you who was alive at the time of the siblings death. Someone missing? That person may have died years ago, and their passing wasn’t noted. This happened with one of my direct ancestors. She had died more than 30 years before any of her siblings. Or a parent’s obituary might say they were parents of 5 sons and 3 daughters but only 4 children are now listed. Hmmm…more research to find out more about these siblings.
Census Records are great for identify where someone lived at a point in time. We are fortunate in the United States and Canada because we have access to so many census records and these are indexed and searchable. However, I’m thrilled when I have an online copy of census records (France) that I can search manually by address in the hopes of finding ancestors. In the case of Paris, France, the census records are not indexed, are divided by arrondissement, and start in 1926. Other parts of France have quite old census records. The reason I mention this is because in the family I mentioned, some of the siblings moved to suburbs where I have had good success finding them in census records.
It is worth mapping out the locations that your ancestor lived as well as their siblings and children. You can gain insight into how and why people moved. If they lived close to each other (think about cities and suburbs) explore records in those vicinities. I plan to map out the locations of my ancestor’s siblings and her sibling’s children. If you’re a visual person like me, then you might identify a pattern. Did they live in those areas because of employment, other family, or economics? Learning the history of the area might shed additional light.
As part of the mapping exercise, you will need to identify the records, dates, places, and people in a timeline. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but it should be comprehensive so that you can track that family in time and space. While my example is for France, small town North Dakota might help you identify relatives that all lived within ten miles or neighbors that came from Wisconsin when your family did. Perhaps they were related in some way. You can decide that you only care about a certain ten-year period or perhaps like me you’re trying to discover a death date so are using the dates from the last known record to a date far enough out to reflect on long they possibly lived. The online records are both a blessing and a curse as it is so much fun to search for new data. As we collect more and more information about our families, understanding where they existed in both space and time will help you with your research and make your family story richer. Have a great time!
Check out these past blogs for more information related to timelines and mapping:
From Timelines to Story - Herding Cats Genealogy
Mapping Your Ancestors - Herding Cats Genealogy
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With a lifelong passion for genealogy and history, the author enjoys the opportunity to share genealogy tidbits, inspiring others to research and write their family story.