Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Those Coming Behind Us

A few months ago, I was asked to be a "special teacher" for an 8th grade history class.  Sometimes, learning history comes easier from alternative sources.  My subject was how to learn about history from genealogy, specifically letters written home.  I've got copies of letters that were written between my 4th great-grandparents during the Civil War and from their son, my 3rd great-grandfather, to them.  I've blogged about these letters here.

I arrived that morning and was greeted by 40 13 year olds.  That's 80 eyes and they were all on me; however, with all things genealogical, once I get started, I ramble.  We read the letters together and I explained who the ones mentioned in them were.  We talked about how the Civil War was more than just statistics.  Its impact is something that we as a nation are still dealing with.  We talked more specifically how it impacted this particular family - a proud man could no longer work, the only son left to do the duty his father gave his health for, the son-in-law who died hundreds of miles away from home and was temporarily buried on a mountain top before finally resting in a national cemetery near his first grave.  Those 80 eyes were wide, alert and questioning.  They had so many questions that we even went over the end of class a bit.  And they stayed to ask them!  They didn't run out of the room screaming because the crazy lady was STILL talking about some type of scandal.  Truth be told, I think that was a bit of a hook for them.  They found out that people are people, regardless of the time period.

The liaison between the school and the Kentucky Arts Commission told me that some of the kids were going to do their history project on my ancestors and she'd make sure I got copies of their projects.

Well, gentle readers, tonight, she was as good as her word.  I received an article that will be published in the local paper, a play based on the letters between my 4th great-grandparents and a power-point presentation that was not only based on what we'd talked about that day, but some other very interesting things - a piece of Confederate currency, other photos and information on the captain of the 8th Kentucky Infantry.

At the bottom of the email that carried these precious items, she said that she hoped I'd be able to make it for the school's Reading Celebration where these presentations and plays will be performed.

I've already made my reservations.


  1. Woo Hoo! Congrats and how fun is that? Enjoy!

  2. Outstanding! I've always believed history should be taught using primary source materials like your letters and with efforts to tie events to real (ie not the politicians/leaders) people. I'm delighted this went so well and that the children took your presentation and went even further.

  3. Hallo Jen,

    Isn't that wonderful! What a great thing to do and it's great to get the youngsters interested.

    I find your blog very interesting so have nominated you for an Ancestor Approved Award. You can find more about it at my blog So That's Where I Get It From (http://rootsresearcher.wordpress.com)

    Kind regards,

    Christine (rootsresearcher)

  4. Thank you, ladies. It was a fun time and I hope to be able to do it again.