How did your ancestors earn a living?

AJC file

AJC file

Anne Gillespie Mitchell’s lecture at the National Genealogical Society conference focused on ways to research how your ancestors earned a living.

Many in the South farmed the land. Mitchell discussed what it took to be a farmer — 24-7 work, with no vacation — and stressed that we should acknowledge the realities of that kind of life rather than brushing these hard-working ancestors off as “just farmers.”

To learn what type of farming an ancestor did, try using the Agricultural Census, which exists for the 1850 through 1880 censuses. Many times, a migration to another area was due to the need for more farm land or a better life.

Mitchell then emphasized that if your ancestors were not farmers or had moved on to other work, you need to discern that. Farmers usually owned land or at least lived on farmland. Your ancestors could have had an itinerant job, such as a shoemaker, or one that didn’t require land ownership, such as a blacksmith. Those that lived in cities could be listed in city directories. So learning what your ancestors did for a living is vital to their biography, as well as to the records they might have left, or not left, and why they may or may not have owned land. Estate records often help when others owed your ancestor for say making a coffin, or paying for goods. Many times, census records give one occupation, but your ancestor could have had two, such as being a minister and a farmer.

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South Carolina genealogists summer workshop

The South Carolina Genealogical Society’s summer workshop will be July 7 and 8 at the South Carolina Archives in Columbia, S.C. Lectures include several on research by Brent Holcomb, as well as DNA, using the National Archives at Atlanta, finding the fathers of British war babies, researching your WWI ancestor, Sherman’s March through South Carolina, and more. Book vendors will be present, many representing local historical and genealogical societies. Cost is $40 for members, $45 nonmembers, plus $10 for lunch, sent to the SCGS 2017 Summer Workshop, c/o Mrs. Lynn Lee, P. O. Box 10, Lydia, S. C. 29079-0010. Check their website for program details and nearby hotels.

DAR library state source guides

The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) still have available, mostly in PDF formats, their excellent "State Source Guide" series representing the 13 original colonies. Some states, such as South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, New York and Massachusetts, are available in hardback. Georgia is only available in PDF format. Check and then "Shop" to order or call 888-673-2732.


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