Geneachat: Corn as High as an Elephant’s Eye-What Did Your Ancestor Grow? 3

Geneachat: Corn as High as an Elephant’s Eye-What Did Your Ancestor Grow?

According to the 1955 musical Oklahoma, one of the descriptions of that beautiful morning was “the corn was as high as an elephant’s eye. Crops, livestock and the land they raised them on have always been important to our ancestors.

During the month of July, we will talk about those in our line who were farmers. Whether big or small, for most of our family growing crops and raising livestock was a way of life.

From census records, I have learned my tree is full of farmers. Many of my people were planters, farmers or farm laborers who supported their families either on land they owned or rented from others.

Learning what they produced sheds light on the life of a family. If you have ancestors involved in agriculture, there are several ways to discover what was being grown on and types of animals kept on the homestead.

First, check out the agricultural census. These were non-population records in the United States created during the census years of 1850-1880 in many states. Their purpose was determining the overall agricultural state of the country. They contain questions about what and how much was being grown during the year as well as what other types of things were being produced such as timber and honey. The number of animals on the property is recorded as well. It is fun to learn your ancestor had a peach orchard, 3 hogs and was growing wheat and corn.

This link to one of my blog posts shows what I learned about my paternal 3rd Great Grandfather, Benjamin Reese Gibson (1824-1907). Non-population Schedules. Picturing Their Lives.

Another way to discover the types of produce and animals your ancestor worked with is in the inventory of property contained in some probate records. Crops, animals, and tools are often listed as being sold to pay debts. These records give wonderful insights into the everyday life.

Did your ancestor leave a journal, day planner or another type of document recording the weather, crops, birth or death of animals or any other detail of what was happening on the farm? I wrote about a Day Book my paternal great -great grandfather kept in 1899 in the post - Arthur W. Baker~Plowing Through a few years ago. I learned about his day to day life running the farm, his employees and the effects of the weather during the year.

Newspapers can also give agriculture reports. A story about my maternal great-great-grandfather told of his being the first to market with his cotton crop for the season. The article helped me to understand what he was growing on the land he was renting and working. Other reports told of the problems with weather and how it was affecting crops and livestock in the area.

What did your ancestors grow? Have you used these resources and others to learn about your farming ancestors? What did you learn about their lifestyles? Were they producing food for their family or the community? Did you discover any surprising products produced? What types of animals were kept on his property?

Join us this month by writing a blog post or sharing one you’ve already written about the farmers in your family tree. Leave the link in the comments section below. Don’t have a blog? No problem! Leave a comment telling us what you’ve discovered!
Remember that your posts and comments will be part of the June’s GeneaChat: As High as an Elephant’s Eye-What Did Your Ancestor Grow? -Recap on July 27, 2017.

Participating in our monthly GeneaChat is a wonderful way to meet other genealogy bloggers and bring new readers to your blog!
Can’t wait to see what y’all are saying about this!

Thanks for GeneaChatting!


Cheri Hudson Passey

About Cheri Hudson Passey

Cheri Hudson Passey is a Professional Genealogist, Instructor, Writer and Speaker. She is the owner of Carolina Girl Genealogy, LLC which provides research services as well as instruction and coaching though her Genealogy 1-on-1 classes. Born in South Carolina, Cheri has roots in the state for many generations. Her blog Carolina Girl Genealogy has helped tell the story of these ancestors and her research process. You can contact Cheri by email or by visiting her blog Carolina Girl Genealogy. Cheri Hudson Passey writes the Modus Operandi column for Going In-Depth Magazine.

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3 thoughts on “Geneachat: Corn as High as an Elephant’s Eye-What Did Your Ancestor Grow?

  • Christine Woodcock

    Cheri, my maternal grandfather worked as head dairyman for most of his life. A farm accident led him to having to give up farming. But he continued to grow his own food. He had a greenhouse in his yard in the town. He was in constant competition with his neighbour, Mr Lyle.
    My grandmother came to Canada for a visit. My dad gave her some of his beefsteak tomatoes to take back to Scotland. When my grandpa saw them, his eyes lit up. He had never seen a tomato so big! He took the tomatoes to his greenhouse, taped them onto the vines of his own plants and called old Lyle over to see what he had grown!