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Neighbors, Who Are They, Why Are They Important

Neighbors, why are we tracking them, I only want to do my lines?  I hear that statement pop up often and it blows my mind.  Yesterday I presented a talk on," Who are your Neighbors?" 

Let's look at why we look at neighbors. To do this in full we start with our neighbors. Is your neighbor just the house next door, or your genealogy buddy's near you, close friends and sometimes family?  Why look at them, again you say, well because to find your lost kin you have to be on the ancestors thinking plain. Do you worship at the same church? Do you share the same love of various foods? Do they have ancestors that came from the same region that your kin do? Put flesh on the bones of your life and how you share with family and friends take that and apply it to the ancestor's life. Also it may help you to find helpers in your research if they are from the same area or are searching the same name in your area.

I learned this long ago when I had a couple of very elusive family members that would visit me at night and then disappear in the day light.  Sleep was fraught with concern that they were trying to tell me something. To find the answer to this situation I came up with this plan and it seems to work nearly every time I apply it for either my or other peoples research.

You have to put flesh on the bones and to do it you use these tools.

1. Read the History of the development of the area, especially if the lost kin are on the timeline of arriving as the area was being developed. Even a Vanity Book can help to put information in your brain.

 2. Pick up a Census with the kin's name on it. If lucky you may recognize other names as family names near your kin.

 3. Use a Will, there are many names on the Will and some are often ignored. Who Witnessed the Will? Who took the death information to the court? Who signed the Will? Did you list on a Research Source  all the names listed on the Will?

 4. Apply the thoughts of," Who is your neighbor?" to your Ancestor's neighbors.

          a. What was their relationship with their neighbors?

          b.  Did they practice a religion/ faith?
          c.  What school did their children go  to?
          d.  Where did they buy their durable goods? ie cloth,  medical tonics?
          c.  Do you know the history of their local town?
          e.  Who were the  merchants there?
          f.   Read about the people of the town and region.
          g.  Who were the key townspeople of that time?
          h.  Did they have a mortuary? Or did they let the Doctor
               handle the burial detail?
          i.   Did they have a Doctor, lay medical person?
          j.   Did they have a grist Mill?
          h.  Live near a river or lake?
          i.  What was their terrain like?
                  1a. Flat, hilly, steep, rocky, little or no trees or many trees.

  5. Remember these answers for the community lie in the History books of the area. In other people's research they share  information. Read the query posts for the area, many clues come from them. 

  6. Read a Will Book for the region if they have one. You can put families connections together from Will Abstracts.

  7. Read the local newspaper for information. Yes read the entire paper, ads, stories and information. It helps get the prospective you need to add flesh to the bones. 

  8.  Waterways tell you generally the ease or lack of for travel and the importing of goods not raised or grown, also escape routes when needed.

  9.  Terrain also dictates, where they could plow, raise animals of various species, ease for water, and to be able to 

mingle with the neighbors. 

 10.  Religion, Schools, tax lists for roads, schools, building of court houses, the names of the people whom run or built the town are the things we normally look at, along with census after 1790, but the things that made them tick are the other things you need to seek out.

 11.  Do you use Home Page ?  

 12.  Do you use Free Genealogy and Family History Online - The USGenWeb Project ?

 13.  Many of the answers can be garnered through these site alone. Yes, there are many others also.

 14.  Now pick up the census page, highlight your name, then in another color highlight what may be collateral kin.

 15.  Look at the next ten year census and are the names the same and still near your names? do the same as above

 16.  Do this again with the next census, If lucky you can use a state census also. (not all states did them.

 17.  Read again the names in the history books, hopefully you copied those pages, highlighted the names

 18.  You will see a pattern emerge, contact the other names that repeat near yours and find out the link.

 19.  Contact distant kin, they may have the album, the bible, the pictures that were divided up at the time of someones death.

 20.  Make sure you join or at least communicate with the genealogical or historical society in the ancestors area. They should have surname files, 5 generation charts, family group sheets that may show relationships. Also more information about the area from various events that helped shape the community to roster of voters, politicians, list of churches in the area, and other exciting things to learn.  Ie. bank robbery, Major Fire, Flood etc.



  May be shared if credit is given Susi Pentico other wise All Rights Reserved. 


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