Sunday, January 06, 2008

Where Was Your Family in 1908

Lisa, of numerous genealogy blogs, has offered a challenge on her 100 Years in America blog to the genea-blogging community to write a post about where one's family was one hundred years ago. I took a look at my RootsMagic database and saw that seven of my eight great-grandparents had already been born, all 16 of my great-great-grandparents were alive, 15 of my 32 third-great-grandparents and one of my 64 fourth-great-grandparents were known to be living. That is, there may be more 3rd- or 4th-great-grandparents who were alive at that time, but I haven't found their death dates, and I'm also doubtful that they were alive then.

In my children's father's family, he had both grandparents and all eight of his great-grandparents living in 1908. Twelve of his 16 great-great-grandparents were still alive. Three of his 32 third-great-grandparents were known to be living, with the possibility of two or three more (again, I'm missing death dates for some in this generation).

Rather than bore you to tears about where each and everyone of them were that year, I will tell you about two significant family events that occurred in 1908 in my family trees (I haven't found any in my children's father's family). But first, to put it in perspective, in 1908 the main headline was that William H. Taft and James S. Sherman were elected president and vice president. Wilbur Wright delivered a flying machine to the War Department, less than five years after he and his brother Orville successfully flew an airplane. New York City prohibited smoking in public by women. The NAACP was founded. In health news, the Red Cross issued their first Christmas seals, and disposable plastic cups were introduced. The electric iron and toaster were patented. The U.S. began construction of the Panama Canal, often called the "Big Ditch." Henry Ford introduced the Model T.

In business, the Du Pont Company began production of plastics (hmm...maybe that's where those disposable cups came from!) and William Durant founded the General Motors Company. If you read the latest novels in 1908, you would have been sure to pick up The Last of the Plainsman by Zane Grey and Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maude Montgomery. The Christian Science Monitor began publication, and the Ashcan School of painters exhibited in New York City. Your favorite music probably would have been "Shine On, Harvest Moon," "Cuddle Up a Little Closer," or "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," all written that year. Isadora Duncan set new standards in dance with her original performances and the National Board of Censorship formed to police the film industry.

Ladies, you would have dressed in sheath gowns and fish-net stockings and worn boned collars to be in the latest style. Sports fans would have cheered the Chicago Cubs to victory over the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. Figure skating became a new sport after arriving from Europe. George Schuster won the New York-to-Paris motorcar race (how does that work?), and Jack Johnson became the first African-American heavyweight boxing champion. If you lived in San Francisco, you would have enjoyed "Mutt and Jeff" comics for the first time in the Examiner. And the steerage rate from Genoa, Italy to New York City was $12.00.

All these facts were taken from the 1908 pages of the Family History Logbook: A Timeline Journal from 1900 to 2000, with year-by-year historical milestones to record your family's most important experiences by Reinhard Klein, published 1996 by Betterway Books (now F+W Publications). My sister-in-law bought this for me for a Christmas or birthday gift about five years ago. On the 1908 pages, I logged the following:

Archie Louis KELLER is born February 3rd. He is the future second husband of Mary Jane BARBER, Miriam's paternal great-grandmother.

John W. LEWIS, Sr., Miriam's paternal ancestor, dies February 13th in the village of Whitehall, Muskegon County at the age of 68. A Civil War Veteran, he is buried at Oakhurst Cemetery, Whitehall Township.

There were not a lot of main events that happened to our direct ancestors that year. Other years have more events recorded.

If you like putting your family into historical context, I recommend reading "The Year Was..." feature at Ancestry's 24-7 Family History Circle blog. Since my Family History Logbook covers the twentieth century in depth, I have been copying and pasting the entries from the nineteenth century into Word documents and keeping them in a folder on my computer for reference.


Anonymous said...

Miriam, I really like your "spin" on this challenge. It was a lot of fun to read about all of the cultural events of the year to get the idea of what it was like for our ancestors one hundred years ago. Thanks!

Miriam Robbins said...

Thank you, Donna, for dropping by!