There are numerous resources available which can help you learn more about the time periods, ethnic customs, and religious practices that will help you place your family's lives in a meaningful historical context.
Start with Living Relatives
While you still can, be sure to utilize the most valuable resource you have - your living family members. They may not often talk about what life was like growing up because they think people will find it boring, but you may be surprised how vivid their memories are once you get them started.
50 Questions for Family Interviews
Next Stop, the Library
Libraries are great sources for background information on the locations and eras in which your ancestors lived, including history books, maps, cookbooks (for ethnic or period recipes), and fashion (for clothing and styles from different time periods).
Genealogy in the Library
History in the News
Period newspapers provide not only the expected birth announcements and obituaries, but also a window into the lives of your ancestors through advertisements of popular products, gossip columns, long-forgotten news items pertinent to the day, and even editorial comments reflecting community sentiments.
Finding Family History in Newspapers
Mapping Out the Family Tree
Being familiar with the area in which an ancestor lived is essential to family history research. This is where maps come in. Maps can not only help you pinpoint the name, location, and history of the city or town in which your ancestors lived, but also help you find and picture where your relatives were born, resided, attended school, shopped, voted, traveled over land or water, courted, married, raised families, and were laid to rest.
Using Maps in Your Genealogical Research