16 October 2011

Month 1: Puzzles of Your Past

This past week I had the first of many meetings with the Leadville Girl Scout Troop, in our series entitled "Puzzles of Your Past".  Leading up to this project, I have been very excited to get going, but when the day finally came, I found myself somewhat anxious and yes, even a little nervous. What right do I have to teach genealogy concepts? And at that, what right do I have to teach them to a group of 7-10 year old's; the next generation of ancestry research?  My own three nieces, sitting front and center, looking up at me to guide them into what will surely be an exciting adventure into their past. What if I am boring?  Sin of sins! That was the worst thing for me at that age - a boring instructor. What if I'm that person? What if I talk down to them? What if I talk completely over their heads and they are totally lost? The whole project depends on them understanding the vocabulary and concepts being introduced in tonight's meeting!

I was nearly in a panic.

I arrived. Things were hectic. The Daisy troop were making tye-dyed t-shirts and most of the bigger kids were on the playground showing anybody who would look their endless energy.  Oh, boy.

Armed with a glass of water, some very familiar pedigree charts, and a laptop, I started to set up. The leaders had been through my material; they assured me it was great. I had reviewed the "must" list several times over the past hour. I had pictures, cartoons, even Darth Vader in my presentation! How can it possibly go wrong? Darth Vader!?!?!? He's too cool.

We started in. I was introduced, or rather, re-introduced to most of the girls. They all sat there, mostly attentive, and you could see those that were genuinely excited about this endeavor. We'd been talking to them about this for a couple of months, getting them ready. Making sure they knew this was going to require extra work. Trying to dig out of their brains where to focus, what would motivate them, which stories to tell, which questions to answer. There were a couple parent volunteers there, not many, and some afterwards that asked questions. For the most part, though, it was just me and the girls. Probably around 15 kids in my audience that night, and after a minute or two, I settled into my knowledge base and hoped for the best.

There were questions, sure, but not as many as I expected. They had a harder time making notes than they did understanding the difference between an ancestor, a descendant, and a direct or indirect descendant. They laughed at my jokes (whew!), they were quiet when asked to be quiet, and they asked - and answered - good questions.

We ended up having a great time.  What a relief.

Nearly all of them brought their "homework"; their pedigree charts given to them at the last meeting (without me).  Most of them seemed ok with the idea of being assigned more homework... but then, they have a month to do it in.

Here is what we covered, week 1:

  • What is genealogy, and why should I care?
  • The difference between "family history" and genealogy.
  • How did my ancestors make an impact on me?
  • Where to start.
  • Historical Timelines, and they created a historical timeline on themselves.
  • Pedigree charts
  • Vocabulary: genealogy, family tree, ancestor, descendant

Next time, we will start researching... talking about where to research, what kind of documents or sources can be helpful and how to properly document that source. We'll look up a couple people from the SSDI and show them how a phone book can help in your genealogy project. 

I am not nervous.

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