There were panics in the years of 1819, 1837, 1857, 1873, 1893, 1907 and the Great Depression. In almost all instances the panic can be traced or related to credit, scarce money, bank failures and poor investments. The panic of 1857 followed boom times of the discovery of gold in California. This is known as a boom and bust cycle.
Regardless of what it is called, these bad economic times impacted our ancestor's lives. Not only did they have to pinch their pennies, but in many cases they had to uproot and change their lives drastically. Migrations increased during a panic or depression.
Deeds will reflect foreclosures and sheriff sales of property. If you have "lost" an ancestor during any of these time periods, it is worth your while to check the land records and mortgages where they were living. These will normally not tell you exactly where they went, but will give you a better idea of the time period as well as information on what was happening in their lives. At the same time, consider looking into court records for lawsuits over property. Court minutes may also contain information on insolvencies and unpaid taxes.
Newspapers often contain quips in the local news or gossip sections that somebody has left the area. There may also be lists of insolvencies or lists of past due taxes on property. There are many newspapers online at places, such as Ancestry.com, GenealogyBank and also at World Vital Records. If you cannot afford subscriptions, inquire if they are available at a public library or Family History Center (LDS) in your area.
Noticeably during a panic or depression era, people did not spend money on unnecessary items, one of which was tombstones. You may realize this as you progress through your research connecting missing stones to these time period.
There are interesting web pages that will aid in understanding the times of panic. Understanding what was happening will assist you in putting together the pieces of your ancestors' lives.
Panics, Depressions and Economic Crisis Prior to 1930
Panic of 1819
Panic of 1873
Panic of 1893
What records can you locate for ancestors who lived during a panic? Make a list of what might reflect what was going on in their lives, as well as their ages and where they lived. Did they leave journals, diaries or letters that might provide clues? Even if they uprooted, they may have tried to stay in touch with family members, thus letters may survive.
Tough times produced tough people. Your ancestors were survivors. You just need to be tough enough to locate records pertaining to them during these panic time periods.