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Friday, February 24, 2012

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Family History Comes Full Circle

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When our family moved from Illinois to South Carolina to search out extended family and find access to local historical records, I could never have imagined any of the great opportunities that I have experienced.

About two weeks ago, we visited my cousin in Union, South Carolina.  They had the opportunity to attend one of my recent presentations in the area.  We discussed how there is a need to be sure we share our history with our youth and encourage them to learn about their ancestors.  I can see the great gap with today's youth and all the wonderful oral history and lessons that could be learned from their forebears.  I know this knowledge would be so useful to them as they are faced with hard challenges and choices today.

As we visited, and he shared how his daughter had gone back to get her masters, my cousin asked me what type of things could we do to help.  I suggested one thing we could do would be to offer to present in the schools and encourage the youth to learn about their family history.

Our conversation was cut short as a community member came to the door to bear the news about a recent death and the need for a burial plot at Maple Ridge Baptist Church.  Not very many days later, I got a phone from my cousin's daughter whom we had discussed.  I had no idea that she taught at Jesse S. Bobo Elementary in Spartanburg, and she invited me to come to speak to two classes of fifth graders yesterday.

I was so very excited.  The youth were bright and very attentive. They became very excited as I had them look up the words genealogy and genealogist in their dictionaries.  As they were handed blank Family Tree charts, I saw them make attempts to fill in the information they knew.


We discussed the meaning of the term, ancestor, and they recited the names of the ancestors they knew.  I asked them to share some of the lessons and teachings their grandparents had taught.  I showed them how to search for death certificates at FamilySearch.org and how to use the Research Wiki.

I challenged them to work with their families to complete their Family Trees.  The time seemed short, but I knew it had been sufficient when one girl asked me, "Did your parent or grandparent inspire you to do this?"

One boy asked me, "What different types of people did you find in your family tree?"  Another girl shared,  " I have an ancestor who served in the Civil War."  I trust they will continue to be inspired by these questions. I cannot help but envision that the seeds of becoming the family historian in each of their families has been planted.


I remember asking my family members questions when I was very young.  While there were no smart boards, internet, or family tree charts for me, I was greatly inspired by hearing the stories and being able to have my questions answered.  I hope this will be the experience of these students at Jesse S. Bobo Elementary.

I am so grateful to my cousin who serves his community so well, and seized this opportunity to help more.
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