Genealogists are time travelers. Like playing a game of Clue, they wander through time looking for clues to a family member. As students of history, they probe dark attics and read dusty documents to find the treasures—Family stories.
We all have a location at birth and will have a final plot marked. But it is the locations between that holds hidden secrets. Why? Because, like a treasure map, location marks the spot where treasures can be found.
Did you know people who lived back in the Medieval period rarely traveled more than 25 miles in their entire life time? This means their culture, traditions, language, religion, and government were well grounded–standardized. Why is standardization important? Little or no change.
The more interactions between different peoples and cultures; the more we see technological advancements, social changes, and even language development. For example, Japan isolated itself for 200 years, starting in 1663. This isolation strengthened traditions, culture, and government structure, which ended in 1863. Once Japan opened herself up to outside influences, there was immediate cultural changes. These changes would eventually lead its people into war and almost total annihilation.
But even in the United States we have settlements, like the Amish, who still maintain a strong culture and community. Even in the 21st Century, amidst all the technology development around them, the Amish have been able to maintain a separate cultural time capsule.
America in the 19th Century, also called the Industrial Revolution, saw a lot of movement from farm and rural communities into city life where jobs were more available. It should be noted that the farm and rural community culture also followed its people into the city.
After WWII, we see whole populations on the move. From around the country, people were on the move. The automobile became an important commodity as well as a status symbol. People from rural areas moved into cities; while people from cities moved to the suburbs.
My point in all of this is, as we get closer and closer to our present time, populations are more in movement than any other time in history. On the other hand, as we move back through time, we have better opportunities in establishing groundwork for stories.
Moving back, we can access small-town newspapers where birth announcements, marriages and obituaries are available; In addition, we get insights to yearly town events and traditions. Society columns also lend interesting insights to individual lives.
Local biographies, letters, and official legal documents also give insights to culture, society, and micro-chronologies on individual lives. The good news is many of these newspapers have been digitized and can be found online. Many of these copies have been taken from older forms of analog copies that came in three formats: Microfilm, microfiche, and aperture cards.
Microfilm was photographed onto reels of film, Microfiche were flat sheets of photographed film, and aperture cards were punch cards with a chip of microfilm mounted. The past awaits with anticipation if you know the location.