19 March 2012

Old Grave, New Discoveries

Image Accompanying Washington Post Article

Last month (25 February 2012) the Washington Post (DC) published an article with the above title and the subtitle “In push to preserve Arlington plot, churchgoers unearth their roots.”  As a genealogist, we know how special cemeteries are – both for information and spiritually.

“When Saundra Green Looks over the compact cemetery adjacent to Calloway United Methodist Church in Arlington, she sees the history of her community.

The oldest grave contains Margaret Hyson, who died in 1891 and was a slave on the Hall’s Hill plantation before emancipation  Under another marker is Hesakiah Dorsey, a slave who joined the Union Army during the Civil War ...

Now Arlington County is about to designate the tiny plot .... as a local historic district”

Do read the full article – it goes on to discuss how the county preservation planner looked at census and historical data, unearthed a 1985 survey of cemeteries by the Arlington Genealogical Club and circulated a questionnaire at the church to get oral reports of who might be buried there.  She ultimately shared this information with the congregation and they responded “It’s a lot ... that this new generation of us didn’t know.  We didn’t know how to find it...”

This reminded me that though I take for granted the basics of genealogical research, there are many more individuals who have an interest and don’t know where to start!

How can we “experienced” genealogists reach out to our local community and help those who are interested and don’t know where to start?

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1 comment:

  1. One of the ways I get friends 'hooked' on genealogy is to set up a "Soup and Genes" meeting at my home every month or two (at my convenience and only during the winter months), I cook and/or buy two kinds of soup (to take care of gluten free, vegetarian type preferences) set out bread and/or crackers along with table service and tell people to bring what they want to drink. Soup's on at 6:00, people help themselves, we start talking genealogy at 7:00 and stop at 9:00.

    This allows for a social hour while people are eating. I keep the soup warm on the stove so that those that have to be late can just fix a bowl and join the group without disrupting what's going on.

    The first thing item on the agenda is to ask each person in turn to go over where they are in their research and what problems they are encountering and the evening takes off from there. The rest of the group loves hearing the stories that others have found as well as sharing what they have. The trick is not to let any one person monopolize the time.

    I have my computer hooked up along with my projector and screen but this could also be done with flip charts and marker pens, even just letting people look on as you work on the computer (our group is a little too big for that). Sometimes people bring their computers and follow along and sometimes I talk about resources that aren't on the computer. I usually have in mind some topic to introduce, there are so many possibilities that I'll never run out of ideas. When people are just getting started I think that it is more important to cover the questions that they have rather than have a highly structured presentation. Besides, it's a lot less work on my part.I just want every person to have learned at least one new thing during the evening.

    We have found the birth family of one of our group who was adopted (got all of her g grandparents plus a few lines into the 1600's), we've exploring the tragedy of the Donner Pass expedition for a member's ancestor who left the group just before they went into the mountains, we've discovered that another ancestor was included in the book "Little House On The Prairie" and we've watched a video with many photos of multiple generations that was put together by one of our group after she visited Ireland and found her family there.

    Our group started about three years ago. At the first meeting there were about eight people, the next about twelve and then we leveled out at about fifteen. Nobody wants to miss what's going on so there is a consistent high level of enthusiasm. Even those who don't do much genealogy come because they don't want to miss anything and, gradually, even they are becoming 'Hooked'.

    When it is convenient for me I Email articles from various websites or blogs that I think will interest the group.

    The key to the continuity of this group is that I set the meetings at my convenience. I've gone months without setting a meeting but the interest still continues as people learn how to do their own research and then they introduce others to this crazy addiction.

    In addition to enjoying seeing others become interested in genealogy there is a selfish reason behind this. I've been doing genealogy for over 40 years and before I started "Soup and Genes" I wasn't able to talk much about something that is a big part of my life - my friends just weren't interested. Now, they frequently ask me questions about 'how to...' or tell me stories about what they've found. They are totally thrilled as each new discovery adds to what they know about themselves and their family. Some of them have joined genealogical societies and we're even discussing the possibility of starting to do some research trips together.

    It's all great fun and all it takes is a pot or two of soup.

    Lou Daly, [email protected]