There is an online magazine that is devoted to telling the history of the times in America before 1900. Its articles give you some insight to the events that shaped our ancestors' lives.
The website is an attractive presentation that itself looks like an old newspaper, and the article headlines are hot linked to the full stories. It is published quarterly, and older issues are available (the link is near the bottom of the home page.
If you are interested in searching for a particular topic, there is a search box at the bottom of the home page.
This can be interesting but addictive reading. You can check it out at http://www.common-place.org/