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Historical Record Blog Post
People of the past left behind footprints, such as this Civil War-era letter, for historians to use in research.

What kind of historical record are you leaving behind? By historical record, I mean any evidence of you left behind for historians of the future to find. Kind of like a carbon footprint, but tied to your place in history rather than your environmental impact.

People from the “olden” days left behind a historical record, or footprint. Those footprints come in the form of census records, family photos, letters, newspaper articles, draft registration cards and much more. Web-based databases such as Ancestry and Internet Archives have simplified the process of gaining access to these resources and understanding an individual’s historical record.

As society becomes more reliant on digital storage and information sharing, many of us leave behind an Internet-based footprint. Don’t believe me? Go Google your name. From online newsletters to Facebook pages to comment threads to copious amounts of photos, the internet is keeping tracking of you. This idea might be a little creepy, but online documentation is a good thing. For the most part. 

What does this mean for researchers? As previously mentioned, I have found that researching historical figures has become increasingly easier with the advent of digital repositories. With all of the footprints people leave behind on the internet today, researching most modern-day people is relatively simple. I say relatively, because there are always going to be people who do not fit the mold. This year I have been challenged in my own research by a category of people who I will call the “in-betweeners.” These are the individuals who are too young to have traceable historical footprint, but may not have the internet footprint that comes with being in the workforce in this digital age. As I researched for one of the newest exhibits at the Indiana Historical Society, You Are There: That Ayres Look, I had several people whom I was researching fall into this category. Thankfully, we were able to speak with many of these individuals, mostly past L.S. Ayres & Company employees, in person. Quite serendipitous, considering that interviews with the research subject are often not an option.

What kind of historical record are you leaving behind? Are you currently an “in-betweener?” What footprints will future historians, particularly genealogists, have to go off of to learn about you?


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