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Monday, January 18, 2016

"Little" People

To all historical societies, everywhere: most of the people who contact you do not have famous ancestors, despite their desire to have them, most of the people in your historic area are ordinary people who lived ordinary lives but their descendants value their histories just the same. The tendency to focus on those who made a name for themselves is, in my opinion, misguided because those who made a name for themselves are easily identified. Their names appeared in local newspaper a multitude of times. They have parks and streets named after them. It is the ordinary farmer, school teacher, mechanic, laborer, the person buried on their own land who is lost in history but who has descendants who need to find them. Please shift your attention away from the well-known and, instead, spend more time and effort in creating access to all the "little" people whose lives are also of value and interest.

Some of my ancestors were buried on their own land.  I'm told stones were often placed at the head and foot.  Those were often the only markers.  After these lands changed hands, those resting places were lost in history.

Some family members have died alone and we didn't know about it until well after the fact.  How their documents, photos, etc. are disposed of is unknown.  All these family memorabilia are lost.

Perhaps local historical societies could forge a relationship with local officials to rescue those memorabilia so that they are preserved.  Particularly when there is no family found but even when there is family, if they are not particularly interested in those things.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if, one day, a great great niece or grandchild found family photos and documents preserved at the historical society where their relative lived.

I would love to think that could happen.

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