Often in my research, I like to think about why my ancestors did what they did. I am especially curious when I find that they moved from one state to another. Sometimes it seems like there are “loners” who go out on their own. Those I generally label as “adventurous” people who wanted to go see the country rather than stay home and tend to the family farm. Sometimes entire groups of extended family moved together, or in a chain, one moved first and then others followed. I usually guess that those folks moved because of opportunity or a better life in a new location.
The truth is, unless we have a diary or letters, maybe a newspaper article, from/about our ancestors we can never really know. By studying the social history of the time and place, we might be able to make a good educated guess. Usually I ponder on my own life choices to try to identify why my ancestor may have done something, like moving to a new state. In our case, my husband got a new job, a better paying and much more interesting job. Also, I consider myself adventurous and I would often wonder what it would be like to live in a different place. Usually it was while we were traveling through beautiful locations that seemed peaceful. Usually we had many reasons to stay put, and not enough reason to move.
But then a REAL opportunity happened. Yikes! It was exciting and scary all at once. Of course, we live in different times than our ancestors. Most of the moving hassles were taken care of by my husband’s new job, things like flying to Texas to shop for a house, then packing, loading and unloading the truck, driving the truck to Texas, and so on. We could have had our cars shipped, our pets and ourselves flown. However we had too many plants and other things the movers wouldn’t move so we opted to take a road trip in our two cars with 2 kids, 3 cats, 1 dog, and miscellaneous items. It was Labor Day weekend so we had a couple of extra days to kill between being out of our old house and closing on our new one. We stayed with family for a few days but then ventured on where we stayed in 2 hotel rooms with 4 humans and 4 pets. Let’s just say that was an ADVENTURE! The next morning at 7:30 am we loaded everyone up, met our realtor, signed papers, waited for the funding to go through and then finally, around noon, got our keys. Let’s not mention how hot it was (90+ degrees) while we had 4 humans and 4 pets in two cars, waiting for our keys.
Once we had our keys and we unloaded our stuff, our pets and our kids we went over to the school to get the kids enrolled. Since we were leaving Colorado two weeks after their school started, and only one week late for Texas, they got a couple of extra weeks of summer vacation. They started school the next day. We also still had to wait for our moving truck to arrive. Luckily they arrived the next day as well so we only spent one night on air mattresses.
While all of that was full of hassles and stress, it really did go pretty smoothly. Let’s think about it… We drove a car, with air conditioning, and made the trip in two days. Gas stations, rest areas, restaurants and other stores along the way provided for any needs we had. We had all of our belongings in a big truck also headed to Texas. Our ancestors? They would have only brought what was completely necessary and the journey took weeks (maybe months depending on where they were going) through the elements, with only what they could carry or fit in their wagon. They likely walked all or part of the way over rough roads or no roads at all. The farther back in time, the harder it likely was. There was no roadside assistance. There may have been Indian attacks, wild animals, disease or injury, hunger/starvation, and in many cases they didn’t all make it.
My point is, if our ancestors moved, it was a much bigger “deal” than it is today even when I consider our move a “big deal.” They didn’t do it without a lot of consideration and preparation. (Unless they were running from the law, perhaps.) In our case, studying the social history of the area is not going to clue anyone in on why we moved. Perhaps there will be archived versions of everyone’s Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, LinkedIn accounts and other social media outlets. Those are serving as today’s diaries. If future generations have access to these types of records they can probably figure out why we moved.
Pondering the possible motives of our ancestors’ movements can add life to the names and dates and can give meaning to what might otherwise not make any sense. Beware of declaring anything as fact unless you have writings from ancestors. Most of what I “decide” about my ancestors’ motives is of course speculation and is usually based on clues, but rarely does anything say something so clear as my husband’s Facebook status declaring that he had changed jobs and we’d likely be moving or the image to the left that states exactly what day we left our home.
While I don’t have archived social media information for my ancestors (i.e. diaries or letters), it is pretty clear that they moved for some reason and the reason had to be a good one for them to have gone through all that they did. And while I may never know their true reasons, I know what motivates me and my family to pick up and move: a better job and adventure.