The Year Without a Summer…

When I first began to speak at genealogy conferences my most requested topic was American Migration Patterns. And one of the specific questions the audience wanted an answer to was, “Why did my ancestors decide to move?”

In the past two to three years, America has witnessed, whether we are watching or not, many of the reasons your ancestors decided to take the biggest risk of all–to migrate to a new land, a new country, a new place:

  1. Major “acts of God”–hurricanes that wiped out whole cities and tornadoes that swept the land clean and floods that rolled houses along as if they were small toys.
  2. Unseasonal weather changes from extreme drought with plants burned and stunted to  more water than the ground can hold, with dew points that leave the moisture so heavy in the air you can see it.
  3. Disappearing animal species and beneficial insects–honey bees and prairie dogs to name two.
  4. Bisected United States weather map–northern states too cool and southern states too hot.
  5. Wars and military conflicts with surprise casualties and weary troops.
  6. Loss of jobs without new opportunities to replace them–including the trend of sending profitable businesses offshore without taking the workforce.  Menial jobs filled by non-citizens.
  7. Warring political factions.
  8. Religious persecution where true believers were sent to prison for their view of God.

Your ancestors and mine came to America to better their lives–seeking lands and gold and new opportunities  and undisturbed worship and a stable climate.  When their crops failed–like the farmers in Vermont who plowed their corn under because it couldn’t grow without the warmth of the sun.  Or the ranchers in Texas whose corn withered and died without rain.–They left for America.

When they were given a choice of prison or transportation to the New World, they sailed for America.  Acts of God and unseasonal weather were seen as judgments.  And they left Babylon behind, singing as they went.

It will be an interesting show, albeit a scary one, to see what our chaotic American world drives the jobless to do.  Or, the rich, taxed to bring the runaway deficit to a halt.  Or, the disappearing middle class whose well-being was based on a strong industrial fabric.

Will new migration patterns emerge that will beckon us to new lands, new countries, new climates?

STOP what you are doing and examine the world around you.  This is your chance to understand clearly what motivated your ancestors to seek a new life.  Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS  I just returned from Vermont, New York, Ohio where the clear blue skies of autumn, not summer greet us.  Back to Utah, where a daytime temperature of 78 degrees in the day and 45 degrees in the night will not ripen the corn nor mature the apples.  This is the year without a summer for much of America–at least where I live and travel.

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