Times Leader Arts & Entertainment

Generating generational enthusiasm

April 19, 1998

Times Leader Staff Writer

Generating generational enthusiasm

One of the most important things any genealogist can do is help younger people get started in the quest for their ancestors. A recently reprinted book from Genealogical Publishing Co. could be a valuable tool for inspiring your family s next generation to join with you in the exciting search for ancestors.

It s "Roots for Kids: A Genealogy Guide for Young People," and It s by Susan Provost Beller, who is a teacher as well as a genealogy writer. The book is a 1997 paperback reprint of a 1989 publication and sells for $16.95.

In 88 pages of clearly written text, Beller takes the young beginner step-by-step through basic genealogical procedures and explains key terms as they arise. Nothing is taken for granted.

She starts simply, telling the reader to write down all the vital Information about himself/herself and family. The back of the book contains sample family group sheets that may be cut out and photocopied. From there, Beller offers a chapter on interviewing older relatives so that they can be put on group sheets and even gives a list of the best questions to ask.

Numerous chapters are devoted to public records: what they are, where they may be found and how to weed through them to find the nuggets of information you need.

Aware that teenagers might be intimidated (or not taken seriously) by some public officials, she cautions that adult guidance and companionship will probably be needed on those vital first visits to town halls or courthouses. So while the book is thorough, it is not something you should simply hand to the child and walk away from. In fact, it would probably be best If parent and children were to use the book together, at least until the younger person has a year or two of genealogical experience.

There are a few places in which information is too sketchy. Military records, a vital source of Information, are given comparatively short shrift. Researchers are told to visit or write to the National Archives, but they are not told all of the various classifications of military-related records available or given the code numbers of the forms that must be obtained to make the requests for old files from the archives.

Most areas are covered more thoroughly. There is a good section on newspapers and what may be found In them, and the local reader is introduced to the local historical society - probably something most teenagers have never heard of.

Besides group sheets, the appendices contain sample forms that may be photocopied and used to record information from deeds, wills and the census. Make plenty of copies of them: They could be very useful. There are also good, short lists of magazines, books and pamphlets that will provide more specialized Information.

All in all, this book could be a nice gift for the young person and a good investment for the family s future. But remember, Just as you take your son or daughter out to the park to practice throwing a ball or swinging a bat, you will have to supervise and correct the young person practicing genealogy.

You are the one who will probably have to setup the initial interviews, take the child to the city hall or library and show him or her how to take and file notes. You will also have to deal with the "Oh, I can t do this" mentality that might set in after a few failures or rebuffs. Giving a book like this one is Just the start of a commitment.

Visit your local bookstore. If the store does not have it and cannot get it, here is the ordering information:

"Roots for Kids: A Genealogy Guide for Young People," Susan Provost Beller, paper, 1989/1997, $16.95, postage and handling $3.50, Genealogical Publishlng Co., Inc., 1001 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21202-3897. The company s toll-free number is 800-296-6687.

Tammy Lamb, president of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Genealogical Society, has been taking her message to the schools. Recently she gave a presentation to fourth graders at the State Street Elementary School In Larksville. She explained procedures and showed photos.

"They got a real kick out of it," said Lamb, who visited Bear Creek Elementary School last year and hopes to continue the program in years to come.

The society is still looking for a permanent home for its growing body of Indexed material from churches, cemeteries and funeral homes. It could also use a computer and microfilm reader.

The society s next meeting will be at 7 p.m. April 28 at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center (Veterans Hospital), Wilkes-Barre. The meeting will be a workshop session. "It s for anybody looking to start genealogy, Lamb said. Experience local genealogists will be available to answer questions.

Incidentally, Lamb has prepared a computer disk of photos of various local sites ó schools. churches, cemeteries, public buildings and historical sites and monuments that could well be of interest to out-of-area genealogists looking to acquaint themselves with key ancestral sites in Luzerne County.

Check out the description and sample photos at http://www.pagenweb.org/~luzerne/index.html

News notes:

Gov. Tom Ridge is determined to have the U.S. Census of 2000 give an accurate picture of Pennsylvania s population. Thatís why he recently signed an executive order establishing the Governorís Census 2000 Advisory Panel.

According to a press release from the governor s office, the 40-member panel "will recommend policies to facilitate the most accurate census count in the year 2000 and will coordinate the commonwealth s participation in the decennial census."

The state needs an accurate census to ensure proper representation both in Congress and in the state legislature and to determine communities eligibility for federal programs.

But there is another way in which a good census will be useful. We all know the frustration of trying to use a census that just isn t quite complete or accurate - whole families are unaccountably missing. names are misspelled, ages are haphazard, streets seem guessed at.

Genealogists of the distant future who will use this census will bless us if it is a good, accurate one.

Remember, this column is now accessible through your computer at www.leader.net. Then click on "Arts and Entertainment."

Have you solved some tough genealogical problems in your research? Do you have some tips you d like to share with others? Would you like to report a success story? Drop me a line here at the paper. I ll get in touch with you and help you bring the benefits of your experience to others. Write:

Tom Mooney. The Times Leader, 15 N. Main St., Wilkes-Barre. Pa. l8711.

© 1998 The Times Leader