Thursday, February 4, 2010

My Fascination of Local Histories

I was asked today about why I was so interested in local histories of the places in which my relatives lived. My answer is I want to make these people more than names on a piece of paper. I cannot go back to meet these people and talk to them. So by investigating the historical records of the time in which each lived, I can understand the local events that may have contributed to the decisions these people made. There is one thing that I know for sure. Change is very difficult for most people. This has been true throughout history. I want to know what caused my ancestors and relatives to make decisions to uproot and move to an unfamiliar place. This all started when I began to make a family tree on my mother's side. My ancestors settled in the Dutch colony of New Netherland in the 1600s. In September of 1664, New Netherland was conquered by the English and became the Provinces of New Jersey and New York. The family remained in the Province of New York for more than 100 years. But a little before 1800, a branch moved to the Province of Ontario in Canada, also known as Upper Canada. That is the branch from which I sprung. Early in my family history research, I somehow thought Luke Stoutenburg was a Loyalist (or Tory depending on one's point of view). Many loyalists who lost property when the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783 were given land grants in Canada by the British government. As I delved into my research, I learned that Luke was born in 1772. It is hard to believe that he was a soldier in the American Revolution on either side at the age of 4. So what made him take his family from New York to the wilds of Upper Canada? That is another story. However, in trying to figure this out, I became fascinated with learning about the history of a place at a specific time that might explain why a family might uproot itself and go to a place that is not known or familiar to them. This has become my passion and has earned the nickname by my friends and family of Sherlock.

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