As a genealogist, I'm not going after just names and dates. I'm looking for anything that will place my (or my clients') ancestors into historical context. What were their lives like? What was it like to homestead in Oklahoma Territory? How did it feel to sail on Lake Erie, or to travel north to Michigan from Ohio in a covered wagon? What was it like to live in Lansing, Michigan, during the years of World War II?
My grandfather kept a journal, where he wrote about daily life in Lansing during those war years. He talked about their backyard garden, and even inserted some of the rationing books into the pages of the journal.
For a riveting, first-hand view of what it was like to live in London during the war years, I can highly recommend World War II: London Blitz Diary
, by Ruby Side Thompson. These are excerpts from the journal that she kept all her adult life. Reading it, I'm taken back to a time and place when it was normal to hear air raid sirens and the "incessant noise of incendiaries falling" all night, every night; to cook with no eggs, butter, milk or meat and to put oatmeal water in your tea; to wait for the all-clear siren before going outside and to know the location of every bomb shelter in the neighborhood; and to pray for the end of "this hellish destruction". And so tonight, as I stand in my kitchen baking Christmas cookies, I look outside at the darkness, and give thanks that I don't have to use blackout curtains, and for the bright Christmas lights decorating our neighborhood. I am thankful that I have butter and eggs, sugar and chocolate to cook with, and that we have no shortage of food. I am thankful for the safe return of my nephew Jason, serving in the Marines, from his overseas deployment this year. Most of all, I am thankful for peace.