Friday, November 17, 2006

Educational Level of Our Ancestors

One of the more interesting tidbits of family history I have been dealing with recently has been the various educational levels of my ancestors and family members. In looking at the census images from 100+ years ago, I find it fascinating to see the differences between life in the 1900s (and earlier) and life today.

Today we take it for granted that the majority of our citizens can read and write or speak English. Yet many of the family records that I have been working with, particularly in the rural areas, the educational opportunities were severely limited. Many times the wife was the one who could read and write, and perhaps the children already had jobs working on the farm by the time they were sixteen or so. Contrast that with today and my own children, who do not have a job at that age, but yet have been receiving an excellent education.

Most of the families I've been dealing with have been native born, so speaking English was not a problem. Yet I wonder how they were able to communicate in their daily lives when so many of them could not read or write. I imagine that for many of them, the Bible was their primer, and they were self taught or taught by other relatives, as the demands of farm life didn't allow for organized schooling.
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