Genealogy and the sources we use can teach us about far more than the bare facts of our ancestors’ lives. We can use these sources to add context, and understand what was going on around them as they lived their daily lives. For example, newspapers, the first drafts of history, show that some elements of the past are familiar to us today. The Advocate Historical Archive, available through the digital library on the EBR Parish Library web site, is a fully searchable archive of every iteration of the Advocate going back to the 1840s.
We have all been reading the news: An illness sweeping across our country; forced closure of public buildings; pleas to keep inside; a grim and growing total reported daily in the newspaper.
This headline appeared in the Baton Rouge State Times on June 24, 1952:
Just a month later, on July 23, this sentence appeared:
This article also came with this advice from Dr. J. D. Martin, the parish health officer:
Polio in 1952, like COVID-19 today, was a frightening, often deadly illness. It attacked the muscular system, so many of those who escaped with their lives were left with mobility problems. Most of these victims were children. Unlike the Spanish flu, Polio outbreaks occurred within living memory. However, with a massive societal effort, and the discovery of an effective vaccine, polio has been eliminated from the United States. The last known case here was reported in 1979, according to the CDC.
As you undertake your genealogy journey, you should contact older relatives for information about their lives. A good way to start a conversation is to ask about the events that they lived through, especially those that are similar to our lives right now. You might ask how it affected their lives, or if they knew of anybody who got the disease. These sorts of questions can lead to broader discussions of family relationships.
guest post by David Laatsch, EBRPL genealogist