The California Gold Rush took place starting on January 24, 1848, when James W. Marshall discovered gold at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California. The “rush” lasted until approximately 1855 during which over 300,000 people arrived in California.
What started as a quiet discovery of gold, soon became a rumor and then by August, 1848 a full printed article in the New York Herald. By the time 1849 began, the race was on to cross the North American continent. The destination? San Francisco. The method of getting there? Covered wagon or by boat.
Left Behind: When a Gold Rush Ended
So what happened when a boom, like the California Gold Rush, went bust? Often, those who traveled across the country stayed put and built a life in California. Others either picked up and followed the rumors of the next gold rush or they returned home.
Here are some records to consult related to those who arrived in California due to the Gold Rush as well as those who remained once the rush ended:
- Newspaper articles. Remember to not just check California resources such as The California Digital Newspaper Collection, but also newspapers at the point of origin for those who migrated. Often, these folks sent letters “back home” which made their way in print somehow, even if only a snippet of news.
- Census records. Using census records can be difficult since many of the gold miners and others were transient and moved around. Also, portions of the 1850 US Federal census are missing for several counties in Northern California. And while there was a California state census in 1852, the Gold Rush was considered over by then and many had taken off for other parts.
- Historical Societies and Libraries. The best resources are the archival holdings of groups such as the California State Library. You may find personal papers, handwritten letters, diaries and journals as well as personal accounts of your ancestor’s migration and arrival in California.
- Business records. Believe it or not, most wealth was made by those who set up stores and businesses to provide goods to the miners and others who arrived as part of the Gold Rush. Check local and county historical societies for business-related documents during the 1848–1855 time period.
Other Gold Rushes
California’s Gold Rush of 1848/1849 was not the first gold rush, nor will it likely be the last. In fact, some would say the current influx of residents to North Dakota starting in 2012 as a result of oil drilling is a modern-day “gold rush.” The history of the United States is marked by mass migrations of people looking for a better future, especially at the prospect of “easy money.” The truth is that in most cases, those who were first on the scene reaped the rewards and those who followed struggled to survive.
Here is a list of modern gold rushes from around the world. When researching your family history, align migration patterns and research records with these dates; you may find the reasons why your ancestors moved to and from specific locations:
- 1799 – Cabarrus County, North Carolina, United States
- 1828 – Georgia, United States
- 1848 – California, United States
- 1850 – British Columbia, Canada
- 1851 – New South Wales, Australia
- 1851 – Victoria, Australia
- 1859 – Pikes Peak, Colorado, United States
- 1861 – Central Otago, New Zealand
- 1864 – West Coast, New Zealand
- 1874 – Black Hills, South Dakota (and Wyoming), United States
- 1883 – Tierra Del Fuego, South America
- 1886 – Witwatersrand Gold Rush, South Africa
- 1896 – Klondike, Yukon Territory, Canada
- 1897 – Mount Baker, Washington, United States
- 1899 – Nome, Alaska
- 1909 – Porcupine Gold Rush, Timmins, Ontario, Canada
Family Story Gold
If you are lucky enough to have an ancestor who heard the call of a gold rush or migrated a long distance to seize an economic opportunity, you should seek out the stories they left behind. Start with asking other family members if they remember stories related to the Gold Rush. A good way to conduct interviews is to use the audio recording features at Saving Memories Forever.
After recording stories, use newspaper records and even historical society papers to verify or substantiate the stories. Check for letters and diaries as well and not just from your wandering ancestor: very often other family members will mention where a specific person is living and why.
Even if you only produce a one or two paragraph profile of your Gold Rush ancestor, you’ll have something precious to share with your children, grandchildren and future generations.
Thomas MacEntee is a genealogy professional specializing in the use of technology and social media to improve genealogical research and as a means of interacting with others in the family history community. For more information visit http://hidefgen.com.
Six years ago, I stood in line on a cold January afternoon in Manhattan. I was waiting for the doors of the theater to open and I was full of anticipation. It was my first visit to Broadway! And I wasn’t disappointed: the show (Hairspray) was vibrant, energetic, and so much more than what I had anticipated. It was truly something you can only experience in New York.
Needless to say, I’m not the first to see a Broadway production. Nor is Hairspray the first show to make it to the Big Time. In fact, one of the longest-running shows of all time, Hello, Dolly! opened its doors 50 years ago this week.
Written by David Merrick, the original Hello, Dolly! opened on Broadway on January 16, 1964 with Carol Channing starring as Dolly Levi. Over the years, the play has been honored with ten Tony Awards, including “Best Musical,” a record that the play held for 35 years. Hit songs from the musical include “Hello, Dolly”, “Put on Your Sunday Clothes, and “Before the Parade Passes By” and I’d be willing to bet that a number of you reading this blog can hum those tunes.
Truly a valuable and beloved part of American culture, the original production ran more than 2,800 performances over six years. Hello, Dolly! played internationally as well with runs in England, Germany, Spain, Mexico, Cuba and tours in Japan, Korea, and Vietnam.
Every Song Brings a Memory
The main appeal of Broadway musicals is that they offer a strong story line that is embellished with a wide variety of songs. Attending one of these musical productions provides both the fun of the occasion, but also the lifetime memory of a particular song. Recalling that favorite song brings back the emotional connection to the whole experience.
The tradition of portraying a story line through song exists in every culture. Some of history’s greatest works of literature, including The Iliad and The Odyssey, began as oral chants. And ballads and epics told by song are nothing more than lyrical oral history.
Last year at RootsTech, there was a lot of attention paid to the importance of preserving oral tradition through storytelling. I agree and I’ve begun recording my parents’ stories. But I didn’t consider my daughter. Recently, when I was recording some of my parents’ stories on Saving Memories Forever, my daughter surprised me by grabbing my smartphone and then recording the story of her day. You can be sure that her story (along with my parents’ stories) has been uploaded and shared on the Saving Memories Forever system. While their stories may not be ballads or hit songs from a famous Broadway musical, they are all music to my ears.
Music for Everyone
Of course, not every musical has the endurance or success of Hello! Dolly. It does seem however, that musical shows depict every facet of our culture, from the wild decadence of the 20s seen in Chicago and Cabaret to the slang and mood of the 50s and 60s portrayed in Hairspray and Grease. Some productions such as Phantom of the Opera and The Lion King create new worlds of eerie beautiful night music and the beat of African drums. No matter your preference, you can almost certainly find a musical show that will deliver a particular message, sing a memorable tune, and delight you for a lifetime.
That memorable day for me was back in 2008 when my husband and I had the pleasure of seeing Hairspray on Broadway. I have to admit it; my husband was not quite as excited as I was. I had grown up seeing small town productions and music of this nature had always been a part of my life (I can still sing along to almost the entire length of Oklahoma!) My husband agreed to attend.
Hours later, when we walked out of the theater, a grin covered his face. To this day, we still love to talk about the show. We have promised each other to make that return trip, only this time, we will have the pleasure of sharing the tradition with our daughter. I cannot wait to see the sparkle in her eyes as it reflects the lights of Broadway.
Genealogist Jen Baldwin is the owner of Ancestral Journeys, specializing in the Rocky Mountain Corridor. She writes for a variety of publications, speaks regionally on genealogy related topics, is the creator and co-host of #genchat on Twitter, and owns Conference Keeper.
Yet, just over 100 years ago cars were largely viewed as being rich men’s toys. That all changed with Henry Ford.
In December 1913 Henry Ford introduced the first car assembly line. Two months later he further improved upon his process by adding the first mechanized belt. This conveyor belt moved cars down an assembly line at a pace of 6 feet per minute. (Snail pace by modern times.) Yet that improvement had a huge impact: it made it possible to assemble a Model T in far less time (only 93 minutes) and for far less cost. All this resulted in a car that was affordable to many people—not just the elite. By 1924 you could buy a Model T for $260.00 (equivalent of about $3500 today).
Ford’s innovations also had a significant social impact. Because of the lower manufacturing costs, Ford could afford to pay his workers higher wages. In addition, the increased efficiency of the manufacturing process meant that employees could work shorter days. From a consumer science point of view, the Model T may be the first example of brand loyalty: for the first time there was a group of people who would only buy Fords.
Ford continually looked for more efficient ways to produce his vehicles. He realized the value of mass production and knew that the fewer variations in the product, the easier it was to produce a quality item. So he standardized the Model T even down to the color: they were all black. In addition, he was open to putting his ideas into practice even if it meant moving his operation from St. Louis, Missouri to Highland Park, Michigan. This new building was specifically designed to accommodate the changes he had initiated in production methods and assembly line manufacturing.
Watching the early cars move down the assembly line must have been amazing. At each stage a person added parts, and those parts became a car. Everyone and every job was critical. If a part was not there or a person installed a component incorrectly, the assembly had to stop. Specialization of labor made the concept possible. Ford’s implementation was both elegant and innovative.
The workers trained on Ford’s system were indeed on the forefront of an industrial revolution.. Imagine the stories told around the dinner table when those workers got home each night and described their day. It must have been fascinating to relatives to hear how a complete car could be built in less than 2 hours.
Most of these stories are lost to time now, but that does not excuse us from documenting our own work days and daily life. We live in a time when innovations happen every day, and we have witnessed the development of various industries, including railroads, airplanes, space and telecommunications, communications and computers. Take advantage of this window in history in which we live and record some of your technology memories on Saving Memories Forever today. Ask older relatives for their “work” stories as well. Find out what their daily tasks included. Discover how they coped with changes in the workplace. Their perseverance (and ours) is a good lesson for both current and future generations.
Manufacturing in America will continue to be innovative. It will continue to improve the efficiency and quality on mass production assembly lines; it also promises innovation in the area of building custom products. Just think about it: 3-D printers can now make small plastic items from a photograph!
Pay attention to the innovations that you notice in your life: the car that parks itself, the GPS and wearable technology that allow you to feel safe while exploring, the new advances in medicine, the latest pictures from remote spacecraft. Take in their wonder. Even better: create an “In the Day Of” recording. Sit down with family members and have each member talk about their day. Then share these stories. Make it possible for future generations to have this insight. They’ll want to know. Your ordinary day will be fascinating to them.
Ellis Island opened its doors as a processing center for immigrants on January 1, 1892. Originally called Gibbet Island and located in the New York harbor, the majority of Ellis Island is actually part of New Jersey and not New York. For 60 years, up until the last immigrant was processed in 1954, 12 million immigrants passed through its doors, on their way to a new life in the United States.
The story of an ancestor’s immigration to the United States is often one of the most cherished when it comes to a family’s history. But stories have a way of accumulating additional information as they are passed on down through the generations; some of this information turns out to be partially true or totally false. You’ll need to do some research on your family’s immigration story to get to the truth and then to share it with other family members.
Ellis Island and Immigration – Truths, Half-Truths and Misconceptions
When researching family history, it is quite common to encounter stories about your family’s arrival in the United States. For the majority of us, the port of entry was Ellis Island, but not always! As with any story or legend, you’ll want to do your research to prove or disprove the story and to get the facts. Here are areas to focus on:
- Castle Garden: Before Ellis Island greeted its first immigrant on January 1, 1893, Castle Garden was the main processing center for immigrants arriving in the New York area. From 1855 through 1892, Castle Garden was the first official immigration center for the United States, having processed over 8 million immigrants.
- Other Ports: Many families arrived in other ports such as Boston, Philadelphia and New Orleans. Don’t assume that they arrived through New York. In addition, some ethnic groups such as the Irish, arrived in Canada and then made their way over land to the United States. Thoroughly research passenger lists and other immigration-related record sets.
- The Process: A multi-part process was used to qualify immigrants to stay in the United States once they arrived at Ellis Island. Most ship passengers were inspected on-board the ship, unless they were traveling first or second class. Inspectors looked for medical issues and those deemed to be too sick were sent to the Ellis Island Hospital and sometimes eventually returned. Further medical exams were conducted once the immigrant entered the processing center; everyone had to walk up a long flight of stairs that could expose issues such as heavy breathing or heart conditions. After passing medical exams, an immigrant was questioned to verify information such as name, age, religion, last residence and to verify the name of a sponsor or family member taking responsibility for the immigrant. Roughly 98% of those arriving passed all the required steps in the process with about 2% being returned to their country of origin.
- Name Changes: Contrary to popular urban legends and family stories, it is highly unlikely that your immigrant ancestor’s name was changed as they came through Ellis Island or any other processing center. The main reason: passenger lists were created by the steamship and transport companies prior to leaving Europe and other ports. The names were then verified at Ellis Island. Most name changes occurred after an immigrant had arrived in the United States in order to assimilate more easily in his or her new country. This meant when registering for school, applying for a job, etc. the new name was used and kept from that point forward.
What Is Your Family’s Immigration Story?
Have you researched and documented your family’s immigration story? They may not have arrived at Ellis Island, but there is still an interesting story to be told. Here are some tips on how to get started:
- Start at home. As with any family history research project, gather information already on hand. Look for citizenship certificates, letters, diaries and other information related to an ancestor’s departure from the “old country” or arrival here in the United States.
- Interview family members. Family stories about immigration, even if they only have a shred of real evidence, are valuable. Sit down with older relatives and conduct a recorded interview. The app from Saving Memories Forever makes recording and uploading a breeze. Alternatively, you could send an email with several questions. Determine who immigrated, where they came from, why they left, etc.
- Research online. Use the resources available at the Ellis Island or Castle Garden websites (see Resources below) or sites such as Ancestry.com, MyHeritage or FindMyPast.com.
- Research offline. You may hit a stopping point, especially when trying to find information from your ancestor’s home country. Consider visiting a major genealogical library or repository such as the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. In addition, hire a researcher skilled in the language of the country of origin and record sets to continue your research.
- Preserve and share the story. Once you’ve gathered all your information, consider publishing a book or starting a blog or website to share the information with others. If you are lucky enough to have recorded interviews using a site like Saving Memories Forever, upload those interviews to their website where the information will be safe. Share those stories with others and incorporate their feedback and stories as well.
- The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc. – Genealogy
- Ellis Island – National Park Service
- Castle Garden
- Castle Clinton National Monument – National Park Service
- One-Step Pages by Stephen P. Morse
- Beyond The Arrival Date: Extracting More From Immigrant Passenger Lists, by Lisa Alzo
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© 2013, copyright Thomas MacEntee
Thomas MacEntee is a genealogy professional specializing in the use of technology and social media to improve genealogical research and as a means of interacting with others in the family history community. For more information visit here.