It’s Labor Day weekend. Step away from the computer and enter the world of your farmer ancestors by visiting historic village and farm museums. Instead of typing birth and death dates into your family tree, let’s experience what the world was like for farmers over 100 years ago. Many of my ancestors were farmers, and you probably have your share of farmer ancestors too.
One of my favorite historic farm museums is The Farmers' Museum (http://www.farmersmuseum.org) in Cooperstown, New York. It is a re-created 19th century historic rural community. The museum features the Lippitt Farmstead, a group of buildings that includes two barns and six outbuildings, animal sheds, a smoke house, and the farmhouse. There is an old-fashioned tavern, general store, pharmacy, doctor’s office, church and much more. I visited there a few years back and loved every minute of it.
PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE FARMERS' MUSEUM, COOPERSTOWN, NEW YORK
There are museums similar to this in many states. In Michigan, for example, Greenfield Village (http://www.thehenryford.org/village/historicdistricts.aspx) has a working 1880s-style farm. You can enter the farmhouse and watch folks cook, look at the decorations and examine the furniture. The actors and actresses, dressed in authentic apparel, are knowledgeable about that period in history. Visit the barn. Enjoy the livestock.
PHOTOGRAPHS OF GREENFIELD VILLAGE, DEARBORN, MICHIGAN
Although I haven’t been there in years, Old Sturbridge Village (http://www.osv.org) is another museum that has a working farm and many other historic re-creations. The period represented is 1790-1840.
Here are few more historic farms and villages that I found on the Internet:
- Colonial Williamsburg, Williamsburg, Virginia (http://www.history.org/almanack/life/trades/traderural.cfm).
- Genesee County Village & Museum, Mumford, New York (http://www.gcv.org/HistoricVillage.aspx).
- Hale Farm and Village, Bath, Ohio (http://www.wrhs.org).
- Landis Valley Museum, Lancaster, Pennsylvania (http://www.landisvalleymuseum.org).
If you happen to be in England, check out the Museum of English Rural Life at the University of Reading (http://www.reading.ac.uk/merl). This museum contains a comprehensive collection on the history of farming. It houses records of major agricultural manufacturing firms, historic information on agricultural organizations and cooperatives, personal records and journals of farm workers, and company accounts of farms across and films about the English countryside and agriculture.(1) If you have English ancestors, this website is worth your time to explore.
These living history museums will give you a chance to walk in your ancestors’ footsteps and get some exercise!
ADDITIONAL READING ON FARMING ANCESTORS
“Time Capsule: Farm Life” by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack, Family Tree Magazine, December 29, 2010 (http://www.familytreemagazine.com/article/time-capsule-farm-life: accessed August 31, 2012).
Tracing Your Rural Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians by Jonathan Brown (St. Peter Port, England: Pen & Sword Books Ltd., 2011). (http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Tracing-Your-Rural-Ancestors/p/3038: accessed August 31, 2012).
(1) The Museum of English Rural Life at the University of Reading (http://www.reading.ac.uk/merl/collections/merl-archives.aspx: accessed August 31, 2012).