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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Think like the archeologist!

One might suppose that archeology is a parallel universe to tracing ancestors, but actually it is so close to what we are doing!  Archeologists sift dirt through a sieve and dig for evidence, then take soil samples to determine the age.  The Egyptian tombs provide written evidence. That is the quest of the genealogist: to find written proof. However, we would do well to adopt the mind-set of the archeologist who gathers the pieces and establishes a time line, historical events and comparisons.  One tiny example is to consider how people named their children. Have you noticed how many surnames appear as a first name? Clue. Then, how the same families seem to locate in the same counties or neighborhoods? Clue.  The movement of religious congregations? Clue.  Wars, famines, religious persecution? Clue. Archeologist create a dig and seek evidence of events and timelines, asking the question "why" or "how".  People moved around for various reasons.  If you look closely, you will find that they were shaping the historical events surrounding their era.  The links to ancestors is insufficient when the evidence points to so much more!  Thomas Jefferson was not the only person shaping history in Charlottesville, Virginia.  He has neighbors and friends whose names did not make it to the history books. However, they were there.  There are many documents which the genealogist overlooks, such as official State correspondence concerning its affairs, wars, etc.  For example, among the North Carolina State Papers is a petition from Scottish people before the American Revolution, seeking refuge from the British and land grants. This was Flora Macdonald's group. Granted, that official correspondence offers tidbits of data, oh, but how precious the find!

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