Shortly after my husband passed away, I fell and broke my wrist! Yes, you're right, things couldn't get any worse. Paper work to be filled out, errands to run, a house to take care of (alone), food to prepare. flowers waiting to be planted and unbelievable heat in the triple digits. So I decided it was time to give up and wallow in self-pity. I couldn't type, couldn't write -- broke right wrist/am right handed!
Fortunately I had two wonderful daughters and a bunch of grandkids to help me out. That is until their own households started falling apart and they had to get back to their own lives. So there I was, all alone -- just me and Mac (my husband's Lab), and Winston (my Maltese) -- and a whole house full of modern conveniences! Oh, dear, how would I ever survive!
I suppose people who aren't interested in their family heritage only live in today's world. Yes, they might visit a restored historical site or a 19th century re-created pioneer community, but when they leave and head for home it was just an educational outing for the whole family. And, hopefully, one of the kids will write an essay on the trip next year in school and get an A. Mission accomplished!
But for those of us who crave our ancestral roots, it is an obsession to know who we are and why we are here. It is a need to know. Nothing brought this home to me more than my circumstances during the last two months. I am not the first women in my family to lose her husband. And probably not the only one to have suffered an injury shortly afterwards. But I am one of that select group that can look back and see what my maternal ancestors went through and it makes me realize how lucky I am and how incredibly strong they were. It also makes realize that I am descended from this stock and I will also survive.
As I sat here for the past week, unable to write or type, I couldn't help but think of the pioneer women in my family who followed their husbands into the wilderness of Ohio and Kentucky following the Revolutionary War. Two of them lost their husbands and were left with young children. Somehow they survived and lived to a ripe old age. Without running water, indoor plumbing, a refrigerator, microwave, fast food, local drug store, emergency room, and, best of all, air-conditioning. In other words, without all of my modern conveniences!
And those widows couldn't fax all of the required documents to the necessary government offices, pension funds, medicare, and attorneys. No, it required an enormous amount of written communication just to get a small Revolutionary War pension from the government. And as far as I know that was all that was available to them back then. Other than that they were on their own.
But when the temperature here in Northwest Ohio hit 101 degrees this past week, and I threw on a t-shirt and a pair of shorts, I felt so incredibly sorry for my female ancestors. I could envision my grandmother many times removed as a widow with young children, living in a cabin in sparsely settled Clermont County, Ohio. Working from sunup til sundown in a dress that came down to her ankles. Anybody out there want to try that?
So I guess when you take all of this into consideration, it isn't difficult to understand the lifestyle that evolved from these situations. And at this point, we have to include widowers. It is safe to assume that pioneers migrated and settled in groups. The reason: survival.
My great grandfather is buried with all of his wives. The group has a huge monument in the middle of the cemetery. Like they have their own subdivision!! Some of his wives were sisters. My grandfather married my grandmother's sister. And this was ok. What happened? When the wife died, usually due to complications from childbirth, her sister would move into the home to take care of the children. I suppose a relationship developed and before you knew it your aunt was your mom. The reason: survival.
Today these circumstances may seem strange, because a family can pick up and move to another town or country and continue on with their lives without taking the entire neighborhood with them. On the other hand I cannot think of anyone I know who would ever consider marrying their brother-in-law!!
You might say I have made a case for cluster genealogy and in a way you're right. But I prefer to think that if you want to find your female ancestors, you have to walk a mile in their shoes. Or perhaps several hundred miles. And you really have to take a good look at how they survived. Because, let's face it you wouldn't be here if they had not survived. Never assume that just because their husbands died that they disappeared into the woodwork. These were strong women and they had to have left records.
Note: These are just my thoughts based on my experiences over the last few months since my husband passed away. They might be a little bit random, but somehow they make sense to me. I hope you can gain some insight from them and incorporate them into your research methods.