I asked some younger relatives to join me in doing genealogy research recently and had a pleasant surprise. I was expecting their attention to last about twenty minutes. We were in the library close to two hours.
Why the interest? I can’t say for sure. But I suspect I know some of the reasons why. First, it was a real experience. I asked the relative to check the index for the records we were looking for; help me find the microfilm in the cabinets; load the microfilm; and locate the record amongst those on the reel. I was only guiding the research by providing the names and dates. In contrast to having classroom material provided to her, she was being asked to actively do the same kind of research I would have done. Second, the material was novel. My relative is just becoming comfortable reading; seeing words that didn’t look the same challenged her to engage with the material in a new way.
What could a parent or teacher take from my experience? Hands on genealogical research can benefit a student in several ways. First, it exposes them to the process of inquiry. They can ask a question and locate the response within a manageable number of sources. It also may challenge them to read more closely. Looking at unfamiliar script or new words forces more careful attention to their reading. In theory, this should deepen their skills. And just think – I hadn’t written up my work yet.