By Daniel Hubbard | August 12, 2012
Well, my little blogiversary party is a week late but when was the last time that everything went according to schedule? Last week, I was focused on what was coming this week—two genealogy board meetings, running a help session at a library and “Genealogy After Hours” at my library down the street. The board meetings don’t make for very good blog topics but the help session just might.
So, for the third time I get to put on my blogging party hat and celebrate just a bit. But first, as is traditional, a short “real” post and I guess since I’ve done it this way twice before, it might pass for tradition.
The help session I did was fascinating. I had a room full of people with time slots and just moved around the room trying to help people. Some had already done a great deal trying to breakdown a brick wall. In a few minutes all I could do was listen to the problem, what they had done and try to see where they might be able to squeeze some more information out of a source or look at something new or even see if the problem ancestor might have bent the truth and caused a search to be too limited.
Other people were self-confessed beginners. They needed to know some basics. One man made some real progress and made an exciting discovery that led to a new mystery. What could be better? Some other people had an odd grab bag of names that seemed to be all the same person but wondered it if could possibly be true. I looked at what they had and told them it was very possible and gave them a few thoughts on getting another record or two.
The most interesting person to help, though, was a twelve-year-old boy. I started when I was a kid so I tried to remember how my aunts once helped me.
He had talked to relatives. Good. He had newspaper clippings. Fine. He had at least one “old” letter. He had a lot of information or did he?
One of the tough things about helping a beginner, especially a child, is to not burst their bubble, or at least do it gently. He told me the letter he had told him that he was descended from a German baron. That wasn’t quite true. It read “aristocracy,” which could mean something below a baron, such as a knight. I tried to give him the idea that these things often get inflated. Just like he read “aristocracy” and imagined “baron,” the letter writer may have been told “upper class” by someone who had been told “wealthy” by someone who had been told “well off” by someone who had been told “successful farmer.” I didn’t go into that detail but reminded him of how things change in a game of telephone. He told me the letter was old so that shouldn’t have happened. I asked, “how old”? Thirty years was the reply, so I asked when this baron would have lived and he thought about 1800. A told him that thirty years might be important if an event had happened thirty five years ago but thirty years out of more than two hundred didn’t really help all that much. He would need to work with original records to get back to his ancestor in 1800.
I hope he continues with genealogy. I hope he got the idea that trustworthy sources were more important than online trees. You don’t need to be a great researcher when you first start off but you do need to improve and maybe even more importantly, he’ll need to learn to deal with disappointment when things he thinks he knows today become things he can’t trust tomorrow. Hopefully he’ll realize that thinking you know names for twenty generations isn’t as important as getting to understand the lives of a few generations that you have proved to be your ancestors. Good luck kid!
I seem to work food into my posts on a regular basis and I do like a good meal. So, this year I thought I’d try to figure out what refreshments might go with a genealogy party. Here is the menu-
Choice of Main Course:
Red Herrings or