Sunday, September 30, 2012

That Farming Life

I am always on the lookout for any kind of materials that might shed light on how my ancestors lived.  Sometimes we family tree researches get lost in the 'name hunt'.  It's kind of like a game of 'my tree is bigger than your tree'.  The only problem with this is, when you are done, all you have is a list of names.  Think about all those trees on Rootsweb with 100,000 or more people in them.  I am always amused with the note, which almost always accompanies these trees, attached to the tree description, "I have no further information on any of the individuals listed in this tree."  Really?  No other information?  How sad!

If you think about a family tree, or at least a pedigree chart, each of the names on that list had a genetic part in who you are.  I always like to think there is a whisper of each of those individuals in me.  They all have played a part in who I am.  Having said that, I want to get to know these people.  How did they live?  Where did they live?  Why did they do what they did?  And the list of questions goes on and on.
 
Sometimes it is not an easy task to reconstruct the lives of our ancestors.  The Web has made it a little easier.  I usually start by Googling my ancestors and the places they lived.  You would be amazed at the number of hits you can get.  From there, I'll usually start weeding out the list to things that can give me the most information.  More often than not, I only can access an indirect notion of how my ancestors lived.  Most of 'my people' were hardscrabble farmers barely getting by.  They didn't leave much direct evidence of their existence.  However, they did leave mountains of indirect evidence.  Think about it - our ancestors were all part of society.  They were all part of the story we call history.

So, as I mentioned at the start of this post, I am always on the lookout for any kind of material that sheds light on how my ancestors lived.  This means I frequent auction houses, antique shops, thrift shops, and the like, looking for anything that shows how individuals lived, worked, or played once upon a time.  Recently I was able to purchase a bound collection of The American Agriculturist for the Farm, Garden, and Household comprising the entire year of 1869.  This was a newsletter edited by Orange Judd (pictured at right).  Click on his picture to open a short biographical for him located at Wikipedia.

The circulation for his paper was over 100,000 by 1864, so can I say for sure my ancestors read his paper?  Of course not.  I'm not even sure my ancestors could read.  However, I can say the majority of my ancestors were farming in 1869.  So Mr. Judd's newspaper can provide valuable insight as to how my ancestors might have been living from a source that was contemporary to my ancestor's lives.  What a deal!

So the next few posts will be inspired by the material contained in these papers.  I'll start with a little nugget gleaned from the January 1869 edition.  The editor states, "Dry wood is an excellent means of grace in a household, promoting good temper and cheerfulness."
So check back for my next post as we start to explore farming life in 1869...

      

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