(from Kimberly Powell’s About Genealogy Weekly Column 4-28-2015)
What makes family history research fun (at least in my opinion) is not really learning our ancestors’ names. It is learning who they were as a person. If you take off their name tag, can you still pick them out from the rest of the crowd?
What Did He do for a Living?
Do you know what your ancestors did for a living? An individual’s occupation may give insight into their social status or to their place of origin. Occupations can also be used to distinguish between two individuals of the same name, often an essential requirement in genealogy research. Certain skilled occupations or trades may have been passed down from father to son, providing indirect evidence of a family relationship. It’s even possible that your surname derives from the occupation of a distant ancestor.
Online Social History Sources for Genealogists
You can’t completely understand your ancestors without studying the history of the times and places in which they lived. Social history can help you to understand your ancestors’ motivations and decisions, and the factors which influenced them. It can also help you to fill in the gaps in their stories that are left by more traditional records. Breathe life into your ancestral stories with the help of these online social history resources.
Understand the Community…
Each town, whether in America, England, Canada or China, has its own story to tell. Sometimes the great events of history will have affected the community, while other times the community will have generated its own fascinating dramas. Researching the local history of the town, village or city where your ancestors lived is a big step toward understanding what their life was like – the people, places and events that impacted the course of their own personal history.
Do Not Forget the Living!
The next time you get together with relatives, try these 10 tips for making the conversation flow and getting family stories that will be treasured forever. Also see 50 Questions to Ask Your Relatives.