12 March 2017

Change is Big and Small

Change is a constant in life, from the small, like growing from a child to an adult, to the big, like moving to an new home or starting a family. Our ancestors experienced many of the same changes we do today, only the small details are different. Society changes, technology changes, family changes, they all continue to happen. Placing our ancestors into the larger context of life around them is, I believe, an important step in gaining insights into who they were and why they may have made the decisions they did as revealed by the documentation they left behind.

One of my favorite current ancestors of study is Isaac Z Shelton. Isaac was born between 1844 and 1852 in Tennessee. I'm still working to determine a more accurate birth date, as his Georgia death certificate states April 1844, the 1900 US census states April 1847, while the 1880 US census claims 1852. Isaac died on 25 November 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia.

During Isaac's at around eighty years of life, he lived in, at least, Overton County and White County in Tennessee, as well as Atlanta, Georgia. Eighty years is enough time for a great deal of change. Plotting Isaac's life on a timeline of historical events gives a great picture of the kinds of changes that occurred. For example:
  • The transcontinental railroad in the US was built
  • The Civil War and Reconstruction
  • Increased industrialization
  • Economic depression (1873-1896)
  • The first flight (1903)
  • Automobiles were built and then became common place (Model T in 1908)
  • World War I
  • Women's suffrage in the US