We imagine the journey that our immigrant ancestors made to America. Did they come on a sailing ship or a steamship? Finally locating the ship that they took from Europe or identifying the port that they landed in brings your ancestor’s story to life.
Once here they followed routes via river, railroad and trails. They made for great additions to your family story. I’ve been thinking about their modes of transportation once they were established on their homestead and neighborhood. What does that look like for your ancestors?
The railroads became important in establishing settlements across the plains. It could make or break an established village or town if the plans for the railroad shifted its location by six miles. Sometimes entire towns would move to be near the railroad. In addition to delivering goods and services, the railroad brought in the pioneers who homesteaded the region. Once they got there, they used horses or oxen and wagons or even by foot to travel to their homestead land.
Now that they were “home”, they still couldn’t meet all their family’s needs by what they raised or grew on the farm. Getting additional supplies required a trip to “town”. While a small town might meet most needs, there were some items that they needed in the larger cities. It wasn’t unusual for the train to be the vehicle they used when traveling longer distances.
You’re probably asking how I could possibly know how my ancestors “got to town” in those early years. Newspapers often talked about what was happening in the neighborhood including travel to town and who was visiting who. While it might not say they caught the 12:40 out town, you can figure out that the town they left from had a railroad station and that if they left from there, they took the train. Here are a couple of examples of what you might find in the paper. I found these by searching by the last name in old local newspapers.
Your challenge this week:
As we look for new ways to breath life into the story of our ancestors, looking at daily life, including travel, helps our reader immerse themselves in the story. Enjoy the journey!
“We are all traveling through time together, every day of our lives. All we can do is do our best to relish this remarkable ride.”
--from the movie About Time
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.