Thank heavens for people who are mechanically minded and can fix machines or invent new ones! As a relative helped fix a truant vehicle this week, this was top of mind. As you research your family and decide what information to include in your story, think about people in your branches who “could fix anything” and what you could write about them. There are some resources that will help you explore this slant.
In the early years—and even now—my ancestor farmers seemed like they could repair and do anything that needed to be done on the farm: build a barn, fix a tractor, cure an ailing cow or make and smoke sausage. Some of these skills required mechanical knowledge. How did they learn? From neighbors or family members? Or maybe their mind just worked that way? Very few were able to attend secondary education. One of my ancestors with an 8th grade education was an avid reader of Popular Mechanics magazine. He designed and built an early snowplow for use on his farm. He was good at fixing whatever needed to be repaired when it came to farm machinery.
Include these types of stories when writing your family history to prevent them from being lost to time. Perhaps another ancestor built many of the buildings on the farm. Was he a carpenter by trade? Nope. Figuring out a way to do things yourself and leveraging the knowledge gained through practical experience helped him meet those challenges. It was likely too costly to hire someone to do the work or there wasn’t a skilled craftsman available on the pioneer prairies. Or why pay someone to do something you could figure out and do yourself?
A recent search of Ancestry.com records resulted in Patent information. That’s right. You can search for your ancestors and see if they ever patented any inventions. How cool is that? While their patent may have never became as popular as the telephone, it does provide you with an interesting twist to the family story. Filing a patent takes some thought and stick-to-it-ness.
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Patents, 1790-1909 This database on Ancestry has patents granted during this time with images where available. The primary information includes the patent number, current US Classification, name of patentee, patent date and patent place.
United States Patent and Trademark Office, Patents: The Collection for All Reasons Resource Information at the US Patent and Trademark Office.
Google Patents You can search full patents from around the world. This free resource may help you uncover an ancestor’s patent. You can search by inventor name, terms, date ranges or combinations of these.
Do you have a relative who could fix anything with baling wire and masking tape? Or invented designs to improve equipment? What about the clever women who were adapt at inventing solutions to daily challenges, improving their family life? Capture those stories of the mechanically minded.
“Necessity…the mother of invention.”
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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.