As you try to complete the pictures of your ancestors' lives, steep yourself in the history of the period and locality. There may be clues there. Reading about the coal mine disaster or the opening of the canal, you may finally understand why your family left the area. The newspaper article in the weekly paper extolling the virtues of Nebraska may explain why they left the fertile land of central Illinois and headed west.
Learn about the churches in the area. Our ancestors were passionate about their religion, and religious upheaval was not uncommon. Arguments over doctrine among the parishioners often caused a dissident group to start another church in different place—down the road, in another county, or in another state.
Search for authors who wrote about life in the areas and times of your ancestors. Authors such as William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, James Whitcomb Riley, Wallace Stegner, Owen Wister, and Willa Cather wrote
Civil War reenactments have become popular. The participants study hard to make the encampments as authentic as possible. You will get the real flavor of the times by attending one.
Be sure that historical events are relevant to your ancestors before including them in your narrative. The lives of famous people probably touched your ancestors no more than they do yours. But, legislative action, such as the Homestead Act, or events, such as the Gold Rush, may well be important.
fiction and nonfiction about places you can visit today. Published letters or diaries that pertain to your ancestors' experiences give you insight. Look for them.
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