Thursday, January 24, 2008

Genealogy - Get Them Interested Young

I've visited with several young men in our area in the past few months as they were working on their Boy Scout Genealogy Merit Badge. Not all of them were fully 'infected' with the genealogy 'disease' yet, but they have at least been exposed to this fun and addictive hobby.

Frequently, I see adults buying stamp collecting kits for our youth but seemingly failing to introduce them to the much more rewarding hobby of family history. My mother introduced me to family history research when I was six and I've enjoyed it since. There is always another 'brick wall' puzzle to solve. I enjoy trading my occupational hat for my 'Sherlock' family history hat whenever possible and exercising my mind as a genealogy sleuth.

If you haven't exposed your children, grandchildren or young friends to genealogy yet, now is the time. Here in the northern hemisphere, it is winter and so inside activities rule the day.

Buy a $4.50 hanging file folder box from Walmart for each of your young folks then create some research, photos and records collection goals and send them on their quest. We all played some form of auto bingo when our parents were trying to keep us entertained on long auto trips when we were young. Perhaps you could create a similar game but have it involve family history items. If you need some 'How Do I Get Started Help' ideas, click here.

Don't forget to include interviews with yourselves as well as grandparents, aunts and uncles on the list, so you will have someone else to not only help entertain them for a while, but give them information that may be new to even you.

Since you are already interested in family history, consider volunteering to be a genealogy merit badge counselor in your area if there isn't one already.

Here's a list of items that I ask the scouts in our area to complete as part of their Genealogy merit badge preparation. You can read the current merit badge requirements here.

Genealogy Merit Badge

To Do List – At Home

  • Create a timeline for yourself or one of your parents. Write a short biography for the person that explains the events on the timeline. i.e. Birth, marriage, broken arm, brother / sister born, graduated from school or a grade, etc.

  • Interview someone in your family and write down the information. Mom, Dad, grandparent, etc. Ask them questions about when and where they were born. What is their favorite food? Did they like school? Do they have a nickname? What is their favorite color? Favorite snack food? Etc.

  • Get the full names, birth, marriage and death dates (if they have passed away) and places these things happened for your parents and grandparents. You should know your own birth date and birthplace … Right?

  • Fill out the family group form for your family… parents and your brothers and sisters

  • Fill out the pedigree chart starting with you.

  • Collect the full names, birth dates, birthplaces and marriage information for your parents’ siblings (their brothers and sisters) and for your grandparents (all four grandparents).

There isn't a similar badge for girl scouts, but meeting the same requirements would certainly qualify for an award from parents, grandparents, mentors or even many church groups.

Teach them young and they will remember the lessons throughout their lives.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Essence of New Mown Hay

Often, old journal or diary entries don't make much sense to us. The idioms that were so common when they were written are now lost in time. I've found that to be true today as well.

Not long ago at work one of my young co-workers came into the office in 'thongs'. Surprised that she was wearing them when it was so cold outside, I asked, "why do you have thongs on today". Imagine my surprise when voices went silent, keyboards stopped
clacking and heads turned.

"Thongs?" "I don't have a thong on" she said with a disconcerted glare at me. Bewildered, I looked at her feet and brilliantly said, "well, what do you call them?" More heads turned our direction, the silence was deeper than ever. Who knew that they called "thongs" "flip flops" now?

Apparently, intent on digging myself in even deeper, I exclaimed, "Well, I used to wear them when I was younger".

From this now entertaining exchange, I observed that my native language has changed in my life time. Why they call underwear "thongs" is still beyond me, but then, why did they call flip-flops "thongs' when I was a kid? A name is just a reference point that people agree on.

Before my wife and I were married, we visited her great grandmother. She kindly gave us an old book by the title of "Austin's Indispensable Handbook and General Educator". It was apparently written sometime in the 1870's. I often open it to see if I can find the meaning of some term used by folks in that day so I can understand the words in old letters and diaries.

Page 383 of the book has always been my favorite. It contains a recipes for homemade colognes and toiletries with titles ranging from Pond Lily Extract to Esterhazy Bouquet to New Mown Hay Extract.

I grew up loving the smell of "new mown hay". Did my ancestors like it enough to make a cologne that smelled like it too? Hey!, they had very discerning taste! It sounds much better than some of the flowery scents they try to push on men today.

Do you want to impress your spouse and the folks at work with this agrarian scent too? Here are the two recipes from page 383.

NEW MOWN HAY EXTRACT -- Take of Tonka tincture, 2 ounces; tincture of musk, tincture of benzoin, extract of moss-rose and deodorized alcohol, each, 4 drachms; ottos of rose geranium and bergamot, each, 20 drops.

NEW MOWN HAY EXTRACT, ANOTHER -- Take of extract of Tonka, 6 1/2 ounces; extract of orris, 2 ounces; extract of musk, 1 1/2 ounces; extract of vanilla and styrax, each, 2 drachms; ottos of bergamot and sandal, each, 15 drops; otto of neroli, 4 drops; ottos of rose, English lavender and patchouly, each, 2 1/2 drops; otto of clove, 1 1/2 drops; benzoic acid, 23 grains; deodorized alcohol, enough to make one pint.

Apparently, the names of some weights and measures have changed since then.

Now do you understand why you have to get into the 'heads' of your ancestors when you are researching their lives? It's all about reference points and the idioms of the day. If you take the time to understand them, your quest will be much easier.

Oh, by the way, if you decide to make a batch of Essence of New Mown Hay, let me know how turns out.