Genealogy is a vital branch of history catalogued as
one of the social sciences.
As a genealogist, you are a searcher for the truth.
As you seek to know the truth, you will need to become many things. You
will become a full-time detective, an inveterate snoop, a pretty good
diplomat, a sharp observer, an accurate reporter, a hardened skeptic, an
apt biographer, a linguist, a shade-tree lawyer and a thorough historian.
To learn about our ancestors is to learn about the
times in which they lived.
My own beloved grandmother was born July 11,
1897….just a little more than 100 years ago. How different was her world
from the one we know?
When my grandmother was born, the average life
expectancy in the United States was only forty-seven years.
Just a century ago, only 14% of American homes had a
bathtub and to have indoor plumbing at all was a rarity.
Most women washed their hair once a month and used
shampoo home-made of borax or egg yolks, rinsing with lemon juice or
Next time you see, read or hear a commercial for
long distance telephone service, think about the fact that a three-minute
long distance telephone call from Denver, Colorado to New York City would
have cost my great grandparents eleven dollars!
Next time you’re speeding down the Interstate, think
about the fact that just one hundred years ago, there were only about 144
miles of paved roads in the entire United States and only about 8,000 cars
in the whole country.
If you owned one of those cars and found a bit of
paved road, the speed limit was 10 miles an hour!
A century ago Alabama, Mississippi and Iowa and
Tennessee were all more populated than California. California had a
population of just 1.4 million residents and was only the twenty-first
most populous state in the Union.
Las Vegas, Nevada had a population of thirty.
Drive-by-shootings, in which teenage boys galloped
down the street on horses and started randomly shooting at houses,
carriages or anything else that caught their fancy – were an ongoing
problem in Denver and other cities in the west.
There were about 230 reported murders in the entire
United States annually.
The Eiffel Tower in France was the tallest structure
in the world!
Next time you open your pay envelope, remember that
just a hundred years ago the average wage in this country was twenty-two
cents an hour! On average, a worker made between $200 and $400 per year.
An accountant could expect to earn about $2000 a
year, a dentist $2500 per annum; a veterinarian could provide between
$1500 and $4000 a year and a mechanical engineer made about $5000 per
Eighteen percent of all households had at least one
full-time servant or domestic.
When there is a new baby in your family, think about
the fact that just a hundred years ago more than ninety-five percent of
all births in this country took place at home.
Ninety percent of all United States physicians had
no college education. They attended medical schools, many of which were
condemned in the press and by the government as “substandard.”
The five leading causes of death in the United
States just a hundred years ago were pneumonia and influenza,
tuberculosis, diarrhea, heart disease and stroke.
When you’re at the check-out at a modern grocery
store, think about how sugar cost about four cents a pound back then.
Eggs were fourteen cents a dozen and you could buy a pound of coffee for
fifteen cents a pound.
My great grandparents did not know about plutonium,
insulin or antibiotics. They never knew Scotch tape, worked a crossword
puzzle, or enjoyed iced tea. Canned beer was still in the future too.
There was no Mother’s Day nor was there a Father’s
Just one century ago only one in ten adults in
America could read or write. Only six percent of our people graduated
from high school.
Our American flag had only 45 stars. Arizona,
Oklahoma, New Mexico, Hawaii and Alaska had not yet been admitted to the
My grandmother died in 1960 and lived to see many
“wonders” including Bonanza (her favorite program) on television!