May 10, 2019

Want to Learn? Teach!

May 3, 2019

This week I’ve been spending some time preparing for an upcoming genealogy presentation in Estes Park.  As I’ve been tweaking PowerPoint slides and verifying that the facts and figures I’m citing are accurate, I’ve realized that by giving a presentation, I’m learning more than anyone who watches it ever will.  That got me thinking about ways that other genealogists might use teaching to sharpen their own genealogical skills.  Even if you aren’t feeling brave enough yet to tackle presentations, there are other ways to teach and learn that don’t involve public speaking.

For example, LCGS sponsors weekly one-on-one sessions each Thursday afternoon from one to four at both the Old Town Poudre River Library and the Loveland Library.  When I began to volunteer at Old Town, I was worried that I wouldn’t know enough about different types of genealogy to be able to help folks.  After all, I’ve never done German, or South African or even Southern U.S. research; in fact, the list of places I’ve never researched is way longer than the list of places I have researched.  It turns out that knowing how to research is more important than knowing specifics about certain locales.  A general knowledge of how to use and the Wiki will enable you to at least steer researchers in the right direction.  Also, just by volunteering and working with people on their genealogy, I’ve learned a lot more about German and Southern research and even a bit about South African research, too.  So, if you’re wondering how to become more proficient in your own research, I’d suggest that you  volunteer at the Thursday one-on-one sessions.  There is always room for more volunteers, and I can guarantee that you’ll learn more than you’ll ever teach anyone.

Another great way to reach and teach others is through writing.  Almost every genealogist has a cache of great ancestor stories, probably a few “how I did it” stories or even questions about those seemingly insurmountable brick walls.  The only problem for most of us is sitting down and actually writing something.  It’s just too easy to put off writing with the excuse “I just need to do a little more research before I write.”  The sad truth is that if we wait until all the research is completely finished, we’ll never actually get anything in writing. Then, all of the research that we did accomplish may end up in the dumpster when we’re gone with nothing to show for it.  Procrastination is the bane of many of us, including me, but one way to get moving is to have a specific project and deadline in mind when we sit down to write.  Luckily for us, LCGS recently reinstated their newsletter, and the editor is looking for content.  That content can be anything genealogically-related including those stories about our ancestors, those brick walls we want to break down and even those “how I did it” stories.  The process of writing about your genealogy will definitely be a learning experience since by writing down the story of an ancestor, it will become immediately apparent exactly where the holes in your research are so that when you do go back to researching, you’ll know exactly what needs to be found. Also,  since the LCGS newsletter is indexed by PERSI, your article will be searchable for anyone, and it may become a learning experience for someone else, as well.  If a distant cousin sees an article you’ve written about an ancestor, he will know that you exist and are researching and may contact you.  Then, you may learn even more or at least have the satisfaction of helping someone else learn more about his/her family.

If you’re wondering what to do next to jumpstart your genealogy, think about helping someone else. You’ll definitely learn more than you teach.

Carol Stetser

Researcher/Director at Large