Practically All Levels of History

Putting an ancestor’s life in context matters, but there are things to consider before just assuming that every historical event had an impact on your ancestor’s life in a meaningful way.

National and global events are not the only ones that potentially mattered to your ancestor. Regional, state/province, or local events may have mattered to your ancestor as well. It’s possible that certain regionalized events impacted your ancestor more than some national events did.

It is also worth stating specifically that not every event had an impact on your ancestor. When my grandmother was born, the Dawes Committee was working on drafting what would later be referred to as the Dawes Plan. Did that impact her parents living in the United States? Was it something her father might have been following as the child of German immigrants? Possibly. It is likely there were other issues, probably local ones, that more directly impacted her parents.

Of course national events matter, but local ones often have a more immediate and direct impact. Changes in property tax rates and governmental regulation of agriculture more likely impacted her farm-owning parents.

The key is not to just grab a bulleted list of “what happened in 1924” and drop them into your ancestor’s life without giving it any thought. County histories and local newspapers may provide you with additional insight into what was going on during your ancestor’s life in a given area.