The further back in history one goes, the more sketchy the information we are likely to find about ancestors. We may find birth records, marriages, movement from place to place, employment records, and court documents if we’re lucky, but not much more. How do you bring those dusty old records to life? One way is to try to put the life you are trying to document into historical context. What was going on at the time the person lived in the place where they were located?
A wonderful tool to make your family history (or your own memoir) more interesting is the University of Houston’s Digital History website. The site contains a map of the United States. On the bottom of the map is a slide bar labeled “lifespan” that you can move along a timeline. As you do symbols for political and diplomatic, social and economic, and cultural events will pop up on the map at the location on the map where something in that category occurred. Click on the symbol and a primary source account of what happened pops up.
The site also provides access to a digital library. The features on Private Life, Ethnic America, Social History and Historical Music may be of particular interest to you as you add context, color and depth to your memoir or family history. The site also has historical images you can access.
Click here to visit Digital History.