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Friday, February 3, 2012

Week 5 of abundant genealogy

Week 5 – Life Experiences: Sometimes the challenges in life provide the best learning experiences. Can you find an example of this in your own family tree? Which brick wall ancestor are you most thankful for, and how did that person shape your family history experience?

This has been a real tough one, and I wasn’t too sure how to address it.  What type of experience, which ancestor, who to pick… so many questions!  I think the life experience I am most grateful for is learning how to research from my mother.  Still thinking about the brick wall ancestor; this may be a 2 part post.

I remember writing research papers for high school English class.  We had 2 large research papers (freshman and junior years) to teach us “proper” ways to write and research for a paper.  When I went to college, I wanted to go back to my high school and let them know that the way they taught us to do this was completely out of date and not at all helpful for college.  However, I am too polite to do any such thing! 

We were taught, and had to do this to get full credit, the old card based organization system.  I don’t know how many of you have ever done, or seen, this archaic practice.  Essentially, for each fact you find about your topic you make a card with that fact on it, and at the bottom you write the source title.  Also, for each source you use, a card is created as well.  After you have done all your research, you take the cards and sort them into sub-topics.  From there you create paragraphs from these “sentences” and then string these paragraphs together.  The bibliography is written by alphabetizing your source cards.  For my research paper my junior year (I cannot even remember the topic) I had 400 cards.  Yes… 400 cards to sort through.

For all the other papers I wrote, in high school and later college, I did it the way my mother taught me and I am so grateful for her!  My mom started medical school when I was 8.  Before that she was an undergrad and in grad school.  Yes, my childhood was spent in classrooms and libraries during vacation days following my mother around when my dad couldn’t watch me. This is probably why I like books, libraries, and school.  The older I got, the more useful I became as well.  For instance, I remember when she realized I was tall enough to use the photocopier!

My mom’s version of research involved said photocopier, scrap paper, a highlighter, and a colored pen.  We would take up residence at a table and she would pull the books for her topic.  Not just the ones listed in the card catalogue, but ones listed in the bibliographies as well.  Never underestimate the sources for your source!  When she found information pertaining to her subject she would mark the pages with scrap paper and put it in the “to be copied stack.”  At the copier each book title page was copied, and then each section/page she wanted.  At the table, or back home, she would highlight the information she needed and with the colored pen make any notes in the margin to help organize her thoughts.  Viola!  No note cards!!

She also taught me endnotes, footnotes, and Chicago style bibliography system.  How to paraphrase, quote, and cite sources correctly.  To say that this was a big life skill may seem odd; however, I am not a normal person.  While I may have trouble with skills like cooking, cleaning, and balancing my checkbook, I don’t have a problem researching, distinguishing primary / secondary / tertiary sources, or feeling completely at home in a library. 

Image: Christopher Chan via photopin cc

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