One of my favorite books has been Judy Jacobson’s History For Genealogists – Using Chronological Time Lines to Find and Understand Your Ancestors. I have found myself constantly returning to the 2009-published volume for guidance in historical information that has the potential of adding increased data, and often generations, to my family history. Beside that, it’s just a VERY GOOD READ!
The book has just been published in a new, larger-format, revised edition. This book is easier to read than the earlier edition, in that it’s in a larger format – excellent for those of us with tired eyes… Denise Larson spent many hours making editorial corrections to the volume, making it more accurate than the previous book. Two new sections have been added in the 2016 addendum. They are 1907-1947/48 Homefront and Fashion and Leisure. I got copies of the new book on Wednesday, and Family Roots Publishing is now shipping. Family Roots Publishing got in another shipment of this book and is again offering it at 15% off – through Midnight PST, Tuesday, March 8..
Any experienced genealogist knows that it’s imperative that we understand the historical context within which our ancestors’ lived. However, that’s a tall order. You could spend every moment of your life reading history – both online and off – and still not have the facts that will help you understand why your ancestors did what they did. This is where History for Genealogists comes to the rescue.
History for Genealogists highlights and dates events that played into the lives of our ancestors. Consider the following illustrations: If you have lost track of your 1880 ancestor in Iowa, have you considered that he might have moved there during the Economic Panic of 1873? Your forebears were living in Texas in the 1840s, but did you know that they might have come from Kentucky as part of the “Peters Colony?” Did you know that you can learn a great deal about your ancestors if they belonged to a labor or fraternal organization like the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, or the Catholic Family Life Insurance Society?
As Mrs. Jacobson puts it, “The average person might define historical research as the study of the human past and genealogical research as the study of a human’s past. History lays the foundation to understand a group of people. Genealogy lays the foundation to understand a person or family using tangible evidence. Yet history also lays the foundation to understand why individuals and societies behave the way they do. It provides the building materials needed to understand the human condition and provide an identity, be it for an individual or a group or an institution.”
The initial chapters of History for Genealogists explain the value of historical time lines. Here the reader learns the clues that time lines can suggest about hidden aspects of our ancestors’ lives. Mrs. Jacobson illustrates the virtues of time lines with several case studies.
The bulk of the book consists of specific historical time lines that answer fundamental questions about our forebears. For example, if you are trying to learn when your ancestors left one place for another, it would be helpful to ask the question, “Why did they leave?” Did it have to do with a military conflict, social injustice, religion, disease, economic hardship, a natural disaster? No matter what the explanation, Mrs. Jacobson has a historical time line that could lead to the explanation. For example, your ancestor’s departure may have coincided with the outbreak of the Crimean War, a virulent epidemic, an earthquake, or a religious war.
Other chapters pose answers to other crucial questions, such as “How did they go?” and “What route did they take?” For these conundrums, Mrs. Jacobson uses time lines to lay out the history of the transportation revolutions in America (roads, rails, canals, and air travel), as well as the history of the great western trails our ancestors followed in crossing the country.
The author dissects the past into scores of time lines. There is a time line of the Industrial Revolution, American immigration, and the Labor Movement. Researchers can also make use of a time line for the history of each of the 50 states, and, in brief, for the rest of North America, Europe, and more.
History for Genealogists concludes with a helpful bibliography and an index of people and places, wars and battles. As an example of how to use the index – I do a lot of research on ancestors who lived or migrated through Nebraska. In checking the index for Nebraska, I found ten entries: pages 25, 39, 60, 70, 85, 113, 154, 180, 181, and 204. This led me to the following information about Nebraska:
- Page 25 – The 1882 Omaha Labor Riots – found in a chronological listing of Uncivil Disobedience dating from 1641 until 1949.
- Page 39 – The 1802 Smallpox outbreak killing Omaha Indians – found in a chronological listing of disease epidemics in America dating from 1657 until 1931.
- Page 60 – Information of the rapid settlement of Kansas, Nebraska, and the Dakotas – found in a chronological listing of Railroad advances dating from 1779 until 1935.
- Page 70 – Information that many Czechs went to Wisconsin, Texas and Nebraska – found in a chapter on Coming to America and Who Went Where?
- Page 85 – The Western Trail ran from Ogallala, Nebraska to Central Texas, and connected to the Oregon Trail. – from a sub-chapter section on Western Trail and Roads, from a chapter section on America’s historic migrations, found in the Coming to America chapter and Who Went Where? This chapter alone is absolutely amazing in its variety and depth of information.
- Page 113 – The top ten destinations for Orphan Train children was New York, Illinois, Ohio, Iowa, Missouri, Michigan, New Jersey, Kansas, Indiana, and Nebraska – found in a subsection on orphan trains in a chapter on “Even Harder to Find Missing Persons.”
- Page 154 – Wyoming wasn’t even a territory in 1860, but neighboring Nebraska was and that unorganized section of Nebraska Territory contained census information for what would become Wyoming – found in the introduction to the comprehensive State-by-State chapter.
- Page 180 – Montana was included in Nebraska Territory – found in the Montana section of State-by-State chapter.
- Page 181 – The Nebraska section of the State by State chapter contains 25 entries starting with the 1763 Treaty of Paris granting land west of the Mississippi River to Spain and concluding with the 1944 Pick-Sloan Missouri Basin Project enacted for flood control, dams, reservoirs, and hydroelectric plants.
- Page 204 – The 1860 Census of Wyoming was included with the census taken for Nebraska – found in the Wyoming section of the State-by-State chapter, made up of 34 entries.
The following is from the Table of Contents
Chapter 1. Seeing Ancestors in Historical Context
The Long Range
Chapter 2. Creating a Timeline
Case Studies Using Timelines
Thomas Pound – Tracking an Individual
Thomas Richley – Designing to Find Mathematical Problems
Chapter 3. Why Did They Leave?
American Military Actions
Major Revolutionary War Events and Battles
Major Civil War Events and Battles
Major Spanish-American War Events and Battles
International Skirmishes Involving the United States
Foreign Military and Armed Engagements
Racism, Injustices and Political Unrest
Escape and Banishment
Epidemics in America
Important International Medical Events Influencing Populations and Migrations
Events Having a Major Impact on Financial Stability in the U.S.A.
Natural and Unnatural Disasters
Disasters in the United States
Chapter 4. How Did They Go?
Chapter 5. Coming to America
Who Went Where?
To Canada and Back
America’s Historic Migration Patterns
The East – Eastern Trails and Roads
The Mountains – Appalachian Trails and Roads
The South – Southern Trails and Roads
The Midwest – Midwestern Trails and Roads
The West – Western Trails and Roads
Long Distances – Long Distance Trails and Roads
Trail of Tears
The Religious Factor
Chapter 6. Myths, Confusions, Secrets and Lies
Chapter 7. Even Harder to Find Missing Persons
Name Changes – Legal or Not
No Public Records At All
Places That Changed Their Names
Three Lost States – Franklin, Transylvania, and Westmoreland
Chapter 8. Society History and Community Genealogy
The American Industrial Revolution
Associations, Brotherhoods, Societies and Unions
The Rise of the Labor Unions
Genealogical Information Found in Books
Social History Books
Diaries and Journals
Oral History Projects
Keeping it All in the Family
Do It Yourself
9. State by State
State Timelines – Alabama to Wyoming – 49 pages
Chapter 10. And Region by Region
The Melding of Nationalities
Just One City
The Rest of North America
Central America and the Caribbean
The Rest of Europe
Russia and the Rest of the Former Soviet Union
Oceania – Australia and Island Nations
Index to People and Places, War and Battles
Addendum 2016 Edition
Fashion and Leisure
Sources and References
To order your copy, click on the following link: History for Genealogists, Using Chronological Time Lines to Find and Understand Your Ancestors – Revised Edition with 2016 Addendum; by Judy Jacobson; 320pp; Paper; Item # CF8250.