What Were Your Ancestors Doing?

What Were Your Ancestors Doing in the 1860s?

The 1860s were a decade of change and innovation. Lots of old ways of doing things in the world were being swept aside, new inventions took their place in the world spotlight, and culture produced some amazing things we still appreciate today. These are some of the things your ancestors may have been doing in the intriguing 1860s.

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What were your ancestors doing in the 1860s? Knowing what was going on in the world during this interesting decade will give you an idea of the world in which your ancestors lived, a world that affected and even shaped them in some ways. It helps you to get to know your ancestors better. These are some of the highlights of the 1860s in the United States and around the world that may have had an impact of some kind on the daily lives and experiences of your 1860s ancestors.

The American Civil War
This is the most obvious thing that went on during this decade. It affected Americans from all walks of life, and no part of the country or its territories was unaffected by it in some way. The end of the war resulted in the abolition of slavery, reconstruction in the American south, and the establishment of American citizenship for African Americans,  and the right to vote for African American males. The social fabric of the country was forever altered by this event from the 1860s.

Abolition of Serfdom in Russia
Russia was the long holdout of the feudal serf system of society after the end of the Middle Ages in Europe. It kept the serf system for a long time, forcing people to work on land owned by wealthy noblemen and women and to give most of the fruits of their labor to their overlords in exchange for protection. With its abolition in Russia, serfdom exited world society.

The First Transcontinental Railroad
Railroad technology was connecting the world in new ways like never before in the 1860s. In this decade, the first railroad that went from one end of the North American continent to the other was built, allowing for quicker, safer, and easier travel for those migrating west.

The First Transatlantic Telegraph Cable
While telegraph technology had been invented a decade prior, the laying of the first telegraph cable in the Atlantic made communication between the United States and Europe an almost instant thing for the first time in history. There was no longer any need to wait for weeks or months to send a letter overseas and receive a reply. This was a revolutionary step in global communications.

Inventions and Discoveries
The 1860s saw the invention of dynamite and the submarine, as well as the discoveries of helium and bright spectrum emission lines. Color photography was also invented in this decade but was not widely used until almost a century later.

Victor Hugo published his famous novel Les Miserables, Leo Tolstoy published War and Peace, Charles Dickens published Great Expectations, and Lewis Carroll published Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The 1860s were a decade of change and innovation. Your ancestors probably availed themselves of at least some of these new amenities, and probably knew about the important world events going on at this time. Now, you know a bit more about this decade in which your 19th-century ancestors lived.


Will Moneymaker

Will established Ancestral Findings in 1995 and has helped genealogy researchers for over 25 years. He is also a freelance photographer, husband of twenty-eight years, father of four children, and has one grandchild.