Sunday, November 25, 2012

Finances- Was my family rich?

Throughout history the economic fortunes of our families have varied. In my own family the majority of my family have been farmers that owned their own land. The financial level of family members does a great deal to control the paper trail of our ancestors. Once vital records became common in the United States there were two controlling factors that effected if people recorded their life events. One was the distance that the family had to travel to the location where the records were being recorded. This typically was the county seat which was normally positioned in the center of the county. The second was their ability to pay the fee often collected to file this record. Counties began charging a fee for the filing of vital records for a source of revenue. When a family had a choice between filing a birth certificate or feeding little Johnnie food always won out. As a result the filing of records in certain places was as low as 50 percent. When a person died a will was not often created when the person had no assets to distribute. It was common practice to just hand over the keys so to speak rather than go through a formal court process. People with out money got very little coverage in the Newspaper so you would have no obituary or a very short line. Cemetery stones would not be purchased and this resulted in unmarked graves. There are reasons we can not find our families. It is important when doing research on our families to be aware of their economic situation. If they were experiencing modest financial situations their paper trail will be slim to none. The challenges of the search become even more difficult.

1 comment:

Robin Foster said...

So true! The economic situation does make it harder. Hopefully we an work to gather the oral history for clues before it is no longer there either.