We look at census records and changes in families as their story. But they lived in a time and place. Their lives weave through history. As I work on my Kinship Determination Project for my CG and the family I’m trying to learn more about the county they lived in, Smyth County, Virginia to understand their lives in the 1800’s.
Yesterday I delved into History of Smyth County, Virginia, Volume Two, 1832-1870: Ante-bellum Years through The Civil War by Joan Tracy Armstrong. As you can see Smyth County was in the southwest corner of the state and transportation was the biggest issue when it came to developing the county. The politics of convincing a state legislature to fund the cost of building roads and railroads in remote areas of the state took quite some time. But it did happen.
“By the end of 1855, tracks for the railroad were within two miles of Marion. Four months later the train was making runs to Marion and track was being laid toward Abingdon.” 1
So the 10 years from 1850 to 1860, did not just show a change in the personal life of my ancestor Adam Boyd Snavely. He was married,2 became a father,3 and a widower4 over those ten years. There was also a change in the ways in which the people of the county, and Marion, where he lived, conducted their lives.5
And I think that is the challenge of telling the story. Our lives are against the backdrop of the world around us. What happens in my city, my county, my state, my country has an effect on my life as I interact with the people in my communities, and the events of the world.
To be really good at what we do, telling the story, we need to bring in those details, not just the personal details we find in historical records.
(Marion, Virginia: Smyth County Historical and Museum Society, Inc., 1986), 56.