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[Detail] The David Hilton family near Weissert, Nebraska. 1887.

Chronological Thinking: Continuity and Change

The primary chronological organizer for this collection is the organization of the Oblinger letters themselves. The collection contains an index of letters by date, allowing the user to access and read the letters in order.

The daily lives and changes experienced by ordinary people such as the Oblingers have a different rhythm and tempo than the events of political or diplomatic history. It is not that the life experiences for people like the Oblingers do not change over time. Rather, those changes often occur almost imperceptibly and usually over a greater span of time compared to other historical events with which historians are concerned. Thus, the lives of ordinary people provide an excellent opportunity for examining both continuity and change over time.

Make a T-chart titled "Continuity and Change in the Oblinger Family." Label one column Continuity and the other Change. Select any year represented in the correspondence and read the family letters for that year (you may want to work with a partner so that you can divide the letters between the two of you). As you read, note changes in the family's life. For example, a new child, a marriage, a death, or a move would represent changes. When you have finished reading the letters for the year selected, note things that stayed the same in the continuity column. For example, continuing to farm, staying in touch with family members in Indiana and Minnesota, or living in the Midwest/Great Plains might be things noted in the continuity column. When you have completed the T-chart, write a paragraph summarizing continuity and change in the Oblinger family for the year selected.