County Histories Offer a Wealth of Historical Context
May 27, 2014
You’ve gathered names and dates while filling in a family tree chart, so what is the next step?
If your goal is to create a clear picture of your family’s life in generations past, try browsing through MGC's books to find county histories! You never know what you may find, even things that can lead you in unexpected directions.
County histories will contain photographs of buildings, churches, schools, and industries, as well as information on different types of associations, entertainment, educational programs, and celebrations. There will be all types of statistics, from crime and ethnic populations to health and vital statistics.
You may find all types of newspaper records, articles, town events, milestones, detailing trends, and political events. Some of the articles in old newspapers are quite funny, but they do paint a picture of the cultural attitudes of the time. There will also be a lot of information about notable families and their activities. You may find names of your ancestors among them and pictures that might not be in your family albums. Their names might also be among the lists of local church congregations, schoolhouses, and social groups. You may also discover friends and associates of your relatives who are still living.
While researching Pettis County, Missouri, I found several wonderful books on Sedalia where my great grandmother’s family came from. I always pictured this small town to be basically a collection of small farms and suburbs with perhaps a single main street business district. What I found at the beginning of the twentieth century was a booming metropolis with many cultural groups, a strong manufacturing industry, and a fascinating railway. I was especially interested in the railroad because I had already discovered that my Great Grandfather Emmett had worked on the M. K. & T. Railroad that went through Sedalia.
I also found pictures of the schools and churches my ancestors must have attended and many, many photographs of the fashions of the day. MGC’s county books are located on the second floor. There is a county directory at each reference desk that shows every county in the country and the Dewey decimal call number where they can be found.
I think this is the most enjoyable part of doing genealogy research, putting the names and dates against an historical backdrop that brings meaning and understanding to the lives your ancestors led. MGC will have a class all about county histories on June 3rd at 10:00 a.m. All of our classes are free, so sign up today!
What kinds of treasures have you found while browsing through county records?
Midwest Genealogy Center