Friday, March 28, 2014

The Treasure Under My Bed

my 1975 notes from Genealogy 101

We are wrapping up a remodel of our master bedroom and bathroom.  Shoved underneath our bed are a few boxes of stuff that have no other place in the house, and yesterday it was time to deal with those.  One box labeled Genealogy is full of photographs, old letters (including some from my Mom, Grandma, Dad, and other special relatives), and even the notes from a genealogy class I took in winter semester (Jan-April 1975) during my junior year at BYU.   Yeah.  Why did I keep those notes from 39 years ago??

various brochures and instruction sheets 

That class was taught by Norman Edgar Wright, a professional genealogist who had a gift for teaching.  I loved him, and remember very well him using his own ancestors as examples of how to locate information on deceased people.  His great or great-great-grandmother, Kindness Ann Drain, sticks with me as does the surname Badger.  Maybe Kindness Ann Drain's maiden name was Badger.  Or something.  Prof. Wright's wife's surname was Welsh: Bevan.  Wright explained this Welsh patronymic that evolved into Bevan by repeating ap Evan, ap Evan, apEvan, a-pevan, Bevan.

Wright laid out the principles of genealogical research in a logical way, and set me on the course of becoming a serious researcher.  He took the class on a couple of field trips to the Family History Library in Salt Lake, so we could immerse ourselves and learn how to use it.  All of this supplemented the research training I received in classes as a history major.

Some of the pearls of research wisdom contained in these class notes:
  • Work from the known to the unknown (Surprise! I've assisted people determined to go directly to the unknown without building a foundation on the known)
  • Begin with family and home sources ( "Smart" people try to skip this step too)
  • Document your research in the form of a research calendar (The biggest failing of budding researchers)
  • Keep careful record of findings (Another common failing)
  • Keep careful record of sources you have eliminated (Fail)
  • Learn the card catalog of the FHL (No longer necessary)
  • Use every available record: vital, church, cemetery, census, probate, court, military, emigration, obituaries, land, etc.
  • Shrewdly evaluate primary and secondary sources (This becomes natural with experience)
Listed as research sources in my notes were the following that were "must-check" in 1975:

TIB (temple index bureau), began 1921
CRA (Church Records Archives), began 1942
CFI (computer file index), began 1969

No researcher today would even know what those are, because it's 2014 and we don't do family history like your grandmother did her genealogy!

more "how-to" brochures and handouts

To answer the burning question, Why did I keep those notes from 39 years ago??   At first, because they provided useful guidance; then it became sentimental thing.  Those notes brought back rich memories of a marvelous time in my life.  It is time to send them to recycle heaven though.  They are now immortalized on this blog.

Tomorrow: Not Your Grandma's Genealogy


  1. What a great send-off for these notes! I look forward to more old things being featured here.

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