I give a talk on social history that uses Levi Savage as a case study. I want participants to think about one of their ancestors and how to learn about the social history surrounding that person. One of the most important tips that I give is to ask lots of questions about the documents and events that the researcher is studying. I recently learned that I also needed to talk about my research with others and get ideas from them.
One of the documents I use in the case study is the 1862 proposed Constitution of Deseret (what the Mormons wanted to call their state). Levi Savage, Jr. is a delegate from Millard County. Knowing just that, I ask what we might be able to infer from this document. Some of the standard responses include
- he lived in Millard County in 1862
- he was probably involved in politics
- he was probably literate
- his father was also named Levi
- he was an important and/or respected person in the community
At the most recent conference some of the participants taught me there were some other possibilities that I hadn’t thought of
- no one else would go
- he was out of town when the delegate was chosen and therefore couldn’t decline
- he might have been rich enough to go to a convention
Last night I was talking to a family member about another document I use in the case study that shows that Levi was awarded $1100 for Indian depredations. This is a newspaper article in the 1890s and I haven’t yet figured out where to go to find more details. His son’s diary talks about some difficulties with the Indians in Millard County in the 1860s and I wonder if this money was due to losses he suffered in Millard County. I suggested this monetary award may have been due to an act passed in Congress (since the money came from the government).
The family member pointed out that Levi may also have been savvy when it came to lawsuits due to his education. As an example, she pointed out that Levi sued the government for a mule that he owned that was taken by the Army when he was in the Mormon Battalion. He won that suit. She suggested that perhaps the $1100 was perhaps money he received as part of a lawsuit rather than an act of Congress or some other government body.
Both of these examples point out the importance of sharing your research and ideas with others. I learned of potential reasons that Levi was chosen to be a delegate that I had not thought about but are certainly possibilities. I also learned that in addition to newspaper and Congressional record searches, I should also look into the court records to find details of the Indian depredation monetary award.
What research will you share with your family members and friends to come up with new possibilities?