[This post was written as part of Blog Action Day 2009 with the theme being Climate Change. GeneaBloggers has asked genealogy bloggers to discuss how climate changes may have affected their ancestors.]
On the surface of reviewing my genealogy research, one would think there isn't much evidence of climate change impacting my ancestors. My family lines are mostly from Rhode Island and New York with very little migration westward, besides the initial involvement with what I call the Yankee Migration of New Englanders westward to upstate New York.
While climate changes since the mid-1600s may not have been the reason for moving into New York, I am certain my ancestors recognized climate change. They were farmers mostly, their lives inter-twined with the land they tilled. They had to have seen changes over the course of their lives even if they were a relatively short 40 or 50 years compared to today's longevity.
One of the biggest impacts climate changes had on my family was in the mid-20th century and is responsible for how I came to be born and grow up where I did. My mother, Jacqueline Austin MacEntee, was born in New York City but grew up in Jersey City, New Jersey along with 11 other siblings.
By the mid-1940s, the urban landscape had surely changed since my Dutch ancestors arrived in the mid-1600s with larger buildings, more people and more motorized vehicles. These all would lead to an increase in humidity and pollution especially during the summers. Mom would tell me stories of how she and her brothers and sisters could not wait to go up to "the country" as they called it and escape the heat. The country was my great-grandparents' farm in Grahamsville, NY about 100 miles northwest of New York City.
During those summers the children could safely play among the abandoned chicken coop, the barn and the fields. There were games, berry picking days and time spent watching my great grandmother Therese McGinnes Austin canning fruits and vegetables.
Later, my mother would move permanently up to the Catskill and Hudson Valley Region and settle along with almost all her siblings. This is where I grew up during the 1960s and 1970s.
But even I have seen changes in climate in this region: more and more people are looking to escape the New York City suburbs and so they are willing to commute more than two hours each way in order to live in the region. While many drive and few do so in a carpool arrangement, I'm encouraged to see more buses, trains and other forms of mass transit appear in the region where I was born.
Still, when I go home in the summer, I can tell that the summers are not as they were - much more humidity and pollution brought about by too many people and too many cars.
What will the descendants of my family think 50 or even 100 years from now? Will they be mourning the loss of certain lakes where I grew up fishing or swimming? Will they note the lack of huckleberry bushes with berries in late July? Will they be able to remember a time when the region was seen as an escape from humid summers?
Let's hope so. And thinking about climate change today and ways to lessen humankind's impact on climate is a good start.
© 2009, copyright Thomas MacEntee