I asked a colleague to recommend a researcher in a specific area that’s too far for me to travel to and a little outside my area of expertise. He wasn’t able to give me the name of a researcher and, because we occasionally share attempts to be funny with each other, he included the following in his response:
Apparently your family has a long history of living in the middle of nowhere.
He was joking and occasionally likes to remind me that I live in the middle of nowhere and he does not. But his comment got me thinking about something that I had realized but never verbalized.
The majority of my direct-line ancestors did live in the middle of nowhere or at least somewhere fairly rural.
I won’t bore readers with a lengthy discussion of where my various families are from or where they settled, but will briefly summarize. My maternal ancestors all hail from a rural area of northern Germany where they had lived for generations. They settled in rural areas of Illinois and Nebraska in the mid-19th century. My paternal ancestors have been “rural dwellers” in the United States since at least the mid-18th century (for those who were in the United States). My paternal mid-19th century immigrants came from rural areas of Europe as well. We just are not city dwellers.
Except for a set of 3rd great-grandparents who spent two years in Cincinnati.
What changed for your ancestors when they moved from one place to another? What stayed the same (or relatively close)? For many of mine their occupation and way of life stayed the same. Some of their neighbors also stayed the same–if not initially, at least after a few years some of their former neighbors were their neighbors again. Thinking about what did and did not change for your migrating ancestors when they moved may at the very least give you some insight into their life in their new location. Determining what might have changed and what might have not changed may require learning more about the area and the time period than you currently know.
It may even cause you to let go of some assumptions you had about your ancestor and their life.
And that may help you solve your research problem.
Or maybe not.
If you don’t do it, you will never know.