Friday, January 15, 2010

Young Genealogists

What I have noticed is that genealogists are starting at a young age. Yes, younger! Just Monday I was working with a die-hard 17 year old. His mother, not interested at all in the family tree, dropped him off at the Mid-Continent Genealogy Library in Kansas City where I volunteer for a good four hours or so, in order for him to research not only his family tree, but the family tree of a friend. Unfortunately, he was terribly stumped and had not gone really past the 1900’s with this friend’s ancestors, even though he was able to go back to the 1700’s on his own.

“The 1900’s?, you ask.”
“Yes actually 1910.”

My next 2 hours working with the young high school student did not consist of the ins and outs of, or how to use a mouse, but on history. Although the fellow had successfully traced his European descendent family from the 1700’s (through census, military, marriage, birth records), he didn’t realize that volunteering for his African-American friend would require a lot more detective work, and a grave knowledge of history, culture, and social practices.

Our conversations were a series of me giving history, social and cultural lessons, and him acknowledging the information with a “WOW!” or “That’s sad!” I also received quite a few “Really(s)?”

Well, two hours later, he had a lot of knowledge, very little additional information, and he realized that he would have to do some serious digging, and cross-referencing especially to locate maiden names.

I left him with a few valuable tips for seeking African American Heritage, a couple easy to read books on African American history both Pre- and Post Civil War, a list of possible records to search to verify maiden names, and a pat on the back for good luck.

He looked a little overwhelmed, especially when I mentioned microfiche and microfilm, so I started him with my favorite historical fiction book that shares light on the climate, the fears, and lives of a slave from a young man’s point of view. You have probably heard by now about “Elijah of Buxton," by Christopher Paul Curtis, based on the true story of Elijah the first born free child of Buxton, Canada; a real town established for runaways.

It’s a book of hope, which may give this young genealogist not only the inspiration that he needs to take on such a Herculean task as to research an African American family, but broaden his knowledge of one of America’s most intriguing periods.

Genealogists ________ through genealogy!
a) grow
b) become smarter
c) share
d) are more aware
e) all of the above.

Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, Accessible Answers


  1. Hi, my name is Heather. I'm making my way through various genealogy blogs and trying to make contact with other young genealogists. When you get the opportunity, please pass our information along to other young researchers when you meet them. Our group blog, written for and by young genealogists, is over at Our Google+ group is Young and Savvy Genealogists.

    Because we're young researchers, we know how important it is to be connected with other young genealogists who share our passion.