Saturday, 26 March 2011

Homeschoolers dig into their families' history

Several local students came together recently at the Windsor Historical Society to learn the skills behind delving deeply into their ancestries. On March 23, this group of eager kids, all homeschoolers, were completing a four-week series called “Family Roots.” The classes were offered by the Windsor Public Library and specifically designed for homeschooling families. They taught the families the skills that they need to get to know one’s own family history.

“It just seemed to lend itself beautifully to homeschoolers,” said genealogy expert, Judy Morris, who proposed the class concept to the public library. “You can use your own family to explore culture and history,” she said. By using her own family as an example, Morris walked the families through what resources to use, what websites to visit online, and which common research traps to avoid. “It involves a ton of history. It’s important for them to learn of their heritage,” said Morris.

“Judy and I thought homeschoolers would be a good fit because genealogy encompasses so many other areas – history, math, research, etc. – and obviously is great for families to do together,” said Kidspace librarian Deborah Roe. “I had heard there were a lot of homeschoolers in Windsor, so I thought it was worth trying.”

In the last four weeks, Morris met with the families to walk them through her own personal experiences in researching her family and describe the fascinating facts she discovered, as well as the pitfalls she encountered while digging up her own past.

Morris described how despite the fact that some documents are old, they may not all be reliable. Even a census, said Morris, may be incorrect, depending on who answered the door on the day the census taker came knocking.

Fifteen-year veteran homeschooler and Windsor resident Tammy Barlow, who has educated all four of her children, was taking the class with her youngest daughter. Barlow said as her children get older, finding classes like this one gets a little harder. “When they were younger, I found a lot more,” said Barlow. “You have to be very creative.” Since Barlow and her daughter started the class, she has been able to discover information about her own family stemming back to WWI, and research has led her to family members that once resided in Quebec, Canada.

On the last day of this class, each of the children was given a real Windsor figure to research and learn more about. L.P. Wilson and Marguerite Mills were among those being analyzed by using resources available in the Windsor Historical Society’s research library. Each group was given both primary and secondary ephemera to read and pull information from, including birth dates, marriages and deaths.

Sharon Jackson’s daughter was researching Marguerite Mills, who was a charter member of the Windsor Historical Society. “We’ve enjoyed it,” said Jackson, who has been homeschooling her daughter, and later her son, for six years. “It’s been a neat thing to have Judy share her interests with us.” Jackson has lost track of one side of her family entirely and is interested in employing the skills that they learned during the class to track down some more information to pass on to her children.

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