When creating a family history it is almost a necessity to include a time-line of their life in relation to their environment. For instance, a pioneer family in Washington Territory lived through a some momentous events. The major one is the pioneer life-style, which in their time was share by many other people. These people interacted with your ancestors to form a uniquely documented group. While you may not find much, if any information specifically on your ancestor in a local history, there are general facts about the population and environment in that local history which add color to your ancestor’s time-line and life-style.
There are many local histories for the Pacific Northwest that have been produced since the area became a popular place to live and work. Some, more than others, are rich in detail of the area, while others focus more on the people and businesses they built. For instance, I’m reading Far Corner, by Stewart Holbrook, a personal overview of the region written in a light way. It covers a lot of what was, and is no more.
Also, there are many historical works published that are not strictly local histories. These are histories of communities and groups that built the Northwest. Boeing, for instance, has been a major contributor to the local historical scene since it has been involved in many communities over the years. Some the histories of that company may contain important details about the community in which it operated and the people who were directly and indirectly involved with the company.
Many local histories are, by their very subject matter, not New York Times best sellers and thus are not commonly available. Many such histories have been written by local residents, and self-published. These histories often are found in the special collection areas of libraries and have limited circulation. An example is Totem Tales of Old Seattle, by Newell & Sherwood.
Another type of writing, not necessarily related to the Pacific Northwest only, is the fiction of the region. Song of the Axe, by N. C. McDonald, about life in Puget Sound and Seattle, is fascinating for the author’s depiction of life on the streets of Seattle and in the islands of the Sound.
By reading what other authors and authorities have to say about an area, you can get a broader picture of your ancestor’s life and weave parts of their accounts into your own. Carefully documenting and differentiating between what is fact and fiction, however, is a major consideration when writing a history.