This is the first of a three-part series exploring the use of local histories in genealogy research.
When it comes to genealogy, there is much to explore. There are ancestors to be found, mysteries to be solved, and stories to be written. Getting excited to do the research is the easy part. Figuring out where to start, on the other hand, can be a bit more challenging.
Professional genealogist Amy Johnson Crow recommends that before you dive into your family tree to start at a less familiar place: an area’s local history.
“If we are to have any hope of understanding our ancestors, we have to understand where they lived,” she said at the 2016 RootsTech conference. “We have to understand where they lived, because otherwise we’re getting an incomplete picture. We’re just getting an overview.”
While there are many benefits to understanding an area’s local history as you make your genealogical discoveries, the following benefits are three of the most important.
All History Is Local
You’re probably familiar with the phrase “all politics are local,” which is attributed to the late Tip O’Neill, former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. In essence, O’Neill was stating that no matter the political issue, be it budget adjustments or education reform, all politics ultimately come back to an individual person. In the end, the results of all political choices are felt in communities, neighborhoods, and the lives of individual families.