Walk through the old fields to see how the dead stalks tingle your feet!
How often have you passed old corn fields and apple orchards on the road? And see an old torn-down barn, red bricks scattered in the yard, the remains of a few budding jonquils and daylilies? Did you have the impression of an unpleasant existence? If you found where the outhouse stood, you might notice that old bottles and trash were dumped in that hole. And the old sunken well might be hiding a few relics of the past lives of our ancestors.
Prowling around the old farm is an experience unknown to the younger generations. And what an experience! Imagining yourself feeding the cows or plowing the field. But if you linger long enough, you might envision the hard work required to provide food for the family. Did you taste the high mineral content in the water after drawing a bucket from the old well?
Ironically, archaeologists do not see open space as a depressing wilderness. In fact, they are prepared to dig deep into the soil to find more evidence of past generations. The key is to locate the old home site of the ancestors, then examine everything, including the markings of tractor tires. Every grave in this country has not been found. In fact, there are many graves around old farms that can be discovered by noticing humps in the soil and broken slate tombstones buried under weeds.
Nearby woods, full of briars, scrub trees, and bushes, were once cleared and planted. When walking across a deserted field, do you ever think graves may lie under your feet? Or that the rutted terrain could be an old road? How about the dried-up pond? Is that a good place to search for relics?
Just as treasures are hidden under the ground, information is hidden in old documents found at courthouses. Plats, deeds, wills, estates, tax digests, etc. Most genealogists do not see their ancestors at first glance. That is because they were searching for one name only. However, a visit to the family cemetery will reveal relatives and friends, and husbands of the daughters. Becoming familiar with these names and recognizing them in other documents is advisable.
I have searched for one particular family for more than 40 years. However, not until I sat down and read every last will and testament written in that county (for a specified era), as well as the estate sales, old deeds, and tax digests, did I realize that it was all there in the subtle inference of family members. Familiarity with the people in the neighborhood is invaluable in learning that some of them were kin and piecing together the puzzle.