Have you noticed how often we group our ancestors into tidy little groups such as “my Germans” or “my Texans”? After all, categorizing our ancestors is an easy way to convey which branch of the family we’re currently researching. But the people within those groups were individuals with different views—sometimes very different views when it came to politics.
Politics were as hotly debated decades ago as they are now. Do you ever wonder on which side of the fence your ancestors sat? Of course, we can’t go back inside the voting booth with them to see if they voted for Lincoln or Douglas, but we can learn a lot by looking at historical statistics, newspaper articles and issues.
My favorite Web site for finding this information is Elections Central. If you can tolerate the pop-up ads, click on the date links to learn the broad campaign issues of your ancestor’s day. You also can see a graph of popular and electoral votes, as well as a map showing how each state voted.
For more on historical political issues and elections, visit these sites:
• American Presidential Elections 1789 to 1856
• Ancestry.com’s Historical Newspaper Collection
• Presidential Election Dates
• The Power of the Vote: Treasures in Voter Registration Records
Nancy Hendrickson is a contributing editor for Family Tree Magazine. She also is a family historian, freelance writer and the author of the new book, Finding Your Roots Online. Visit her Web site or e-mail her at email@example.com