Sunday, February 17, 2013

Checking out the neighbors

The farther back in history you go when tracing your family the higher chance occurs to having some kind of relationship with the neighbors. An excellent step when doing your research is to identify who the neighbors were to our families. Identifying where they came from and discovering if there is a family relationship is an excellent way to break down brick walls.

Families lived next to people they knew. They traveled with people they knew. Doing research on the people around our families can provide valuable clues to the origins of our relatives. We run into numerous instances where the paper trail runs cold on our relatives for a variety of reasons. Identifying who the neighbors were is the first step in this process to breaking down that brick wall. Take a look at when the neighbors arrived in the area. Did they come when my family did? Who did they buy their land from? What is their families history? All of the answers will provide clues on avenues to continue research on our families.

The migration patterns of our family members closely paralleled the travels of their neighbors. In my own family I have found that the same families have lived next to each other in a variety of locations for multiple generations. I have also identified family relationships that existed prior to when they became neighbors.

On my Mom's side of the family one of the family groups started in Lancaster Co., Pa and them moved to Washington Co., MD. Families moved from one location to the next and I have identified them as neighbors back in PA. Early in the 1800's the family then moved to Columbiana Co., Ohio for a very short period of time and then finally located in Putnam Co., Ohio. At every step of the migration trail I have taken a look at the families that were their neighbors. In all four stops they had people around them that had come from places that they had previously lived. It helped paint a clear picture of why the family lived and located where they did.

Don't always suffer from tunnel division by keeping our focus only on our families. Be sure to look at those that lived in the neighborhood. Neighbors often provide valuable clues on our own families origins that we were not aware of when looking at only our family.