At the beginning of June, I took my 11-year-old daughter to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City for a week of genealogical research. We had a great time. She’s short (not having started the sprouting up process yet) and cute and blonde and very into fashion. She is also very quick and has an analytical mind. She very quickly learned how to find microfilm, load the film (although she was about 1 inch too short but insisted on doing it herself anyway), be able to read the old handwriting enough to recognize the page numbers and surnames we were looking for, load the film on the scanner, resize, focus, adjust contrast, spot-edit, and scan to the flash drive. She learned all that on the first day and after I could see she knew what she was doing, I gave her films and lists and set her on her way. She did VERY well. I was happily surprised. We spent 2 days working on scanning all of the deeds for one family line and their collaterals.
The staff people at the library just loved her! They’d offer help but she quickly demonstrated that she knew what she was doing and even helped other patrons as the week went on. The scanning section has a tall desk in the middle where you stand to scan and then seated scanners along the perimeter. When she was at a standing scanner, she was a little short (but still able to work the machinery). About mid-week they found her a stool and would bring it out for her when she came up to the scanners. On Friday of our week there, the Family History Library staff asked if they could have someone interview my daughter. She was great! Loved having the photos taken, loved talking to the couple who came to interview us. You can read the article here: Family History Blog.
The week spent with my daughter taught me a few things:
- My daughter is VERY independent. I mean I knew that before, but now that she actually CAN do things herself (as opposed to when she was 3 and really did need some help) she really wants to and will get mad if you try to help her too much.
- Too much of even good things can be bad. We made sure to take breaks. While some of us adults can sit in a library for many, many hours on end, we should not necessarily do so. We packed a lunch everyday and instead of eating in the lunch room, we sat on a bench in Temple Square. And about 2 or 3 in the afternoon we took a walk to the Starbucks. Walking and sunshine can really wake up your brain (not to mention the coffee). We also quit working at 6 or 7 pm which I know is sacrilege to some of you die-hard researchers, and if it weren’t for my daughter I’d probably have stayed until closing too, but we also spent time in our room making dinner, watching movies and resting. All good things.
- To do genealogy with young people, you have to remember what it was like to be a kid. While my daughter did help me a whole bunch, she also spent a fair amount of time playing “Plants Vs. Zombies” on her iPad, reading a book and knitting. Since she doesn’t quite understand what a deed can mean for research, she understands what it is at a high level and finds it completely boring. But when we found those names on a plat map and I could point to a section and say “And this was where great-grandpa and great-grandma’s farm was” (Great-grandma is still alive, kicking, traveling and my kids will remember her), she was very interested. Kids are about the stories.
- And kids are about the technology. The fact that she got to run a scanning computer all week, handle films and all of that, kept her interested.
I am so grateful that I had the chance to take that trip with my daughter. Someday she might not want to go to the library or would rather hang out with her friends instead of me, but that day is not here yet. Until then, I will be planning next year’s trip!