Casefile Clues

13 January 2012

Is It Always Possible to Find that Reason?

One clue to learning more about your ancestor is determining why he moved from one point to another. Sometimes the reasons are clear after a little study of local history if the reason he moved was because of the destination--called the pull factor. If you don't know where the ancestor was from, it may be more difficult to determine the reason why he left--called the push factor. It is difficult to read relevant local histories when you are unaware of where the ancestor was from.

Reasons might not always be stated in local histories. Your ancestor might have migrated because of family connections, the fact that a former neighbor had settled in the area, or that there was some type of employment that he could easily obtain. Sometimes the "connection" will be impossible to find. Generally genealogists are advised to research associates of the ancestor in his earlier days of residence in an area to get an idea of individuals he might have known "back home." Sometimes that is easier said than done.

And if you ancestor didn't move---there's a reason for that as well.

If you speculate on why an ancestor moved (or didn't) clearly indicate that your speculation is speculation. And remember, that many of our conclusions are speculation. Very few of our ancestors left behind detailed records explaining why they did what they did.

Often, we look at the records they left behind, use generalities gleaned from history, economics, and known social behavior, and weave a story. Sometimes that story is correct, but sometimes it is not. After all, ancestors leave behind pieces of themselves and when we use those records to tell their story, we often weave some of ourselves into the tapestry we create.