Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Coincidence? I think not!

I thoroughly enjoyed the Zoey Deschanel episode of Who Do You Think You Are. The reason: I learned a few things. I know a lot of genealogists complain about the fact that the research is "harder than it looks in the rear view mirror" and that fact should probably be dealt with. Personally I know most people would tune out if they had to watch the hundreds of hours of research it takes to create this show. Make that thousands of hours. Like watching the grass grow. It would be boring and the idea is to introduce viewers to the wonderful world of family research.

The idea is to show people how much fun it can be to find your 4X great grandparents without scaring them. And if someone does not realize that the research is more difficult than the producers  make it look on the series, we all know they will figure it out soon enough. Just like the rest of us. (Remember, we were all wide-eyed novice family researchers at one time.) But hopefully by then they will have caught the bug and there is no turning back.

So, getting back to Zooey. (By the way, I had a Corgi named Zoe. Love the breed, love the name. Must be the Welsh in me.) Zooey has one of those family members that can be Googled with amazing results.  I have a couple of those. It's great! Really speeds up the process! Sarah Pownall was also a women who left records. Whoo Hooo
Seems like her 4X great grandmother, Sarah Pownall, had a front row seat for the Abolitionist Movement. She watched the Christiana Resistance from her home and was actively involved in what happened. This is no big secret. That fact made Zooey's family easier to find. Note: I did not say easy.

So what did I learn? Pennsylvania and Ohio contained some of the main tracks on the Underground Railroad. I personally have always associated the Ohio River with the Underground Railroad. My ancestors lived in Clermont, Brown, and Hamilton Counties in Ohio so when I think of the "muddy road to freedom" I naturally think Ohio/Kentucky, but never Pennsylvania/Maryland/Virginia. Until now. Interesting.

Also, I never took a good look at the Fugitive Slave Act of 1851 I assumed, incorrectly, that it was in favor of the people aiding the  slaves. I knew being an abolitionist was a dangerous job, not only for the people directly involved but also their families. But I just never thought it was illegal and punishable by a fine and jail time. Holy cow! And then I found out that the bounty hunters were legal and also got away with kidnapping legally free slaves. I can see where this more than likely fueled the abolitionists. 

But what really caught my attention -- The Abolitionist Movement led to the Suffragettes. One more Holy cow!! How could it not have? Women passionate about freeing the slaves soon realized that those inalienable rights in the Declaration of Independence did not apply to them either.

Whether you use this information as a clue to finding sources for researching female ancestors or just for your own information, it is no less fascinating. Now fast forward 100 year and what do you have? The Civil Rights movement followed by the Feminists. Coincidence? I think not.  

Note: Even if they glazed over the research involved in this series and made it look easy we need to understand that the series is not just geared towards the novice genealogist. I am sure they want to provide a few programs that are informational to the advanced and intermediate researcher. Much the same as the conferences we all attend.

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