I currently have a subscription to ancestry.com that expires in May. My goal is to research everything I can before that ends. And it is T I M E consuming.
One of the things that continuously throws me for a loop is the discrepancies. I'm finding that many people who were illiterate or had limited reading/writing abilities (Bobby and I are still baffled how a person could read but not write), say 4th grade or under, do not keep up with dates. For example, I have on distant relative who only completed a few years of school. On every census (every 10 years) her age is different. We know it's her because of the location and other family members listed in the household. From marriage certificate to her death certificate to the census records, her date of birth spans an entire decade. I can understand a year or two...but seven or ten?
I'm also amazed at how much our current society takes for granted. Illiteracy is a huge topic in public education today, but it is NOTHING compared to what it used to be. It's a little heart-wrenching to see a census where under "JOB", every child age 11 and over is listed as either a spinner (cotton mill), blacksmith apprentice, housekeeper, or ranch hand. Fast forward to decades after 1940 and that line will either be blank or listed as "student". I'm all for children helping their families out and working some, but working full-time at the age of 12 is so foreign to me. I also have to remind myself to find the birth year, look for the next census, and if the female child is 5-11, then to look for a marriage certificate if they're not listed in the family's household in the next decade. While 15 sounds incredibly young to be married, my grandmother married much younger than that, and I know many other women who married around 14 or 15. I can't imagine that happening today (and I would recommend against it). I found one young girl who was married at 16 to a 33 year old. I know that's near the same age difference in my marriage, but there is a very BIG difference in getting married at 25 than getting married at 16. It simply blows my mind.
One of the craziest things (I spent two WHOLE days this week working on this alone) was that my aunt sent me texts/photos of the family record from her great-great Grandma's Bible. We have no record of those listings or surname anywhere in our family tree. We do not know how or where they fit in the tree. I've simply started researching their lines in hopes that I'll eventually find a link. We (my parents and I) were joking on the phone the other night that maybe it was a record of her best friend's family and they're really not related to us at all.
I'm still amazed that I can do all of this from the comforts of my home. I know at some point I'll need to visit some courthouses or libraries to search antique records for some documents, but for now I'm relishing the internet and ancestry's search engines. It's intriguing, mind-blowing, and at times, very frustrating.
Probably the coolest thing is seeing the "Jane" tradition. I knew my oldest niece was the third in line, so I thought, of having the middle name Jane, but turns out it goes back WAY much further than that. Mary Jane (at least 2), Sarah Jane, Etta Jane, Merinda Jane, and now Emily Jane. It's a neat tradition.
So if I don't post much in the next few weeks, you'll know I'm either researching or quilting...or working outside. I think I horrified Bobby when I said I wasn't all that thrilled for spring. Yard work - it really does interfere with my hobbies. :)