Are You Smarter Than An 8th Grader–From 1895?

In years past, a five-hour graduation exam was required for eighth graders (around 13 years old) in many U.S. states. It made me wonder: are questions they asked still relevant today? How well would we score? Are we smarter than an 8th grader from 120 years ago?

School genealogy records

A copy of an 1895 graduation exam from Kansas has become famous since being circulated online. We tracked down the original exam at the Smoky Valley Genealogical Society in Salina, Kansas.

Here’s the Geography part of the exam, which took an hour (taken from a transcription at the above website):

1. What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas?
3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
4. Describe the mountains of N.A. [presumably North America] 5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia, Odessa, Denver, Manitoba, Hecla, Yukon, St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall, and Orinoco.
6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S.
7. Name all the republics of Europe and give capital of each.
8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give inclination of the earth.

The Smoky Valley Genealogical Society has posted a copy of the original exam, along with links to the answers, at the above link. Their site also comments, “Many people forget that Kansas is an agricultural state. 8th grade was as far as many children went in school at that time. It was unusual for children to attend either a high school or a normal school because they were needed on the family farms.”

Wonder how each of our forebears would do on it? Consider following up on an ancestor’s level of education (like from a census entry) by finding a copy of a textbook, exam or another document showing the kinds of things they would have learned? The free Google Books is a great place to start! I devote an entire chapter to Google Books in the brand new Second Edition of my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox.

Learn more about researching your ancestor’s education here at Genealogy Gems:

Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 98 answers a listener’s question about finding Yearbooks. Sign in to your membership to listen, or become a member today.

Image taken from exam posted by the Smoky Valley Genealogical Society, Salina, KS, http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~kssvgs/school/exam1895/8th_exam_orig.pdf.

Image taken from exam posted by the Smoky Valley Genealogical Society, Salina, KS, http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~kssvgs/school/exam1895/8th_exam_orig.pdf.

You’ll never look at “8th Grade Education” in a genealogical document the same way again!

7 Reasons to Start a Family History Blog

family history blogMore and more people are blogging about their family history. Here’s why!

When it comes right down to it, many of us want to write up our family stories, but we don’t really want to write or publish a 300-page book. Blogging your family history in short snippets is a perfect alternative! Why?

1. Its shorter, flexible format is much less intimidating for many people. You don’t have to lay out a book or fill hundreds of pages. You can write a little bit at a time, as your time and mood permit.

2. A blog is like your own family history message board. Every word you write is searchable by Google–which means others researching the same family lines can find and connect with you.

3. A family history blog can help bust your toughest brick wall. I’ve heard and shared countless stories here at Genealogy Gems from readers and listeners of how just “putting it out there” on a blog led to someone contacting them with a treasure trove of new information about their family tree.

4. Writing a narrative about your research will help you identify gaps in your research. Sometimes errors or bad assumptions you made will jump out at you.

5. Your kids and grandkids are (or will be) online. They will more likely want to read quick and easy stories on the go on their smart phones and tablets. Putting your research out there on a blog provides them with an easy way to digest the family heritage and subscribe to it, since blogs can be delivered to their email inbox or to a blog reader.

6. Because there are no excuses. You can start a blog for free. There are no rules, so you can decide how often and how much you write at once.

7. If you leave the blog online, it will still be there even when you’re not actively blogging. You will continue to share–and you may continue to attract relatives to it.

Resource:

Start a family history blog with this free series from our Family History Made Easy podcast (an online radio show)

Part 1: What to Consider when Starting a Genealogy Blog. The “Footnote Maven,” author of two popular blogs, talks about the process of starting a genealogy blog. She gives great tips for thinking up your own approach, finding a unique niche, commenting on other people’s blogs and more.

Part 2: Insights from Popular Genealogy Bloggers. We hear from two additional popular genealogy bloggers, Denise Levenick (author of The Family Curator and alter ego of “Miss Penny Dreadful” on the Shades of the Departed blog) and  Schelly Tallalay Dardashti (author of the Tracing the Tribe blog).

Part 3: Step by Step on Blogger.com. How to create your own free family history blog on Blogger.com. Learn tricks for designing a simple, useful blog and how NOT to overdo it!

Final tips: Wrap-up and inspiration. In this concluding episode, learn how to add a few more gadgets and details to your blog; pre-plan your blog posts, publish your first article, and how to help your readers subscribe. You’ll also get great tips on how to create genealogy content that others looking for the same ancestors can find easily online.

share notes with evernoteSHARE! Invite someone you know to start a family history blog by sending them this post. They’ll thank you for it later!

Longtime Family History Mystery Solved Online

computer_magnifying_glass_400_wht_11672Everyone’s families have a little bit of mystery in their past–or a lot!

TheBlaze.com recently posted this great story about a woman who was able to solve a longtime family history mystery by posting it online at Metafilter.com, a crowd-source blog. She posted this query:

“In my grandmother’s final days battling brain cancer, she became unable to speak and she filled dozens of index cards with random letters of the alphabet. I’m beginning to think that they are the first letters in the words of song lyrics, and would love to know what song this was. This is a crazy long shot, but I’ve seen Mefites [other site users] pull off some pretty impressive code-breaking before!” Then she posted the “code” from one of the cards.

Within 15 minutes someone solved part of the puzzle: a section of the code was the first letters of the prayer from the New Testament, “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name….”

Have YOU ever been faced with indecipherable notes left behind by a family member? What family history mystery do you wish an online community could help you solve? Share this on the Genealogy Gems Facebook page and leave your answers.

Family History Episode 15 – More Tips for Contacting Distant Relatives

Listen to the Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast by Lisa Louise Cooke. It’s a great series for learning the research ropes and well as refreshing your skills.

Originally published 2009
Republished January 21, 2014

https://lisalouisecooke.com/familyhistorypodcast/audio/fh15.mp3

Download the Show Notes for this Episode

Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008-09. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.

Episode 15: Genealogy Cold Calling II: 14 Tips for Contacting Distant Relatives

Connecting with someone who knows about our ancestors can really boost our research results—and even create new relationships among living kin. But it’s not always easy to send that first email or make that call.

In today’s episode we talk about the skill of “genealogical cold calling.” Relationships are key to genealogical success and by following 14 genealogical cold calling strategies you will find your research relationships multiplying. We’ll chat with my cousin, Carolyn Ender, who has conducted hundreds of telephone interviews. She has a knack for quickly connecting with folks she doesn’t know over the telephone in ways that put them at ease and bring to light the information that she’s looking for.

But first, we do some follow up with an email from a listener about family trees. Then, I share a little story that puts into practice what we’ve learned so far in this podcast series.

 14  Steps to Genealogical Cold Calling Success 

#1. Identify the person you want to call.

#2. Locate the person’s phone number. Below are some great websites for locating people you don’t know. The list is updated from the one given in the show. And Whowhere.com now has an app for Android, iPhone and other mobile devices. Check it out

Don’t forget to search the entire metro area, not just one city. Try just searching their first name particularly if it’s not a really common first name. Try and track down their number through other relatives or researchers. If all else fails consider posting on a message board for the surname

#3. Prepare ahead for making the call.

Every tough job gets just a little easier when you do your homework first. Follow these tips:

  • Take into account a possible difference in time zones.
  • Choose a time when you are not too rushed
  • Do a brief review of the family you are researching so it’s fresh in your mind
  • Make note of specific questions you would like to ask.
  • Have your genealogy software program open or your written notes at your fingertips.

#4. Get up the “nerve” to call.
Remind yourself how valuable this person’s information could be to your research.  If he or she is quite elderly, remember that none of us will be around here forever so you need to make the call today! Say to yourself:  “I can do this.  This is important!”   And be positive and remember, all they can do is say “no thank you.”

#5. Introduce yourself.
Give your first & last name & tell them the town and state where you live.  Then tell them the family connection that you share, and tell them who referred them to you or how you located them before launching into why you’re calling or what you want.

#6. Overcome reluctant relatives.

Be ready to share what you’ve learned, and to share your own memories of a relative that you have in common.  Mention something of particular interest in the family tree that might pique their interest.

If they are very hesitant you could offer to mail them some information and offer to call back once they’ve had a chance to look at it. That way they can sort of get their bearings too.

#7. What to do during the call
You’ll want to take notes during the phone call.  Try a headset which will help to free up your hands for writing. Handwriting is preferably over typing.

Take the opportunity to not just get new information but also to confirm information that you already have–just to make sure it’s correct.

If you have a way to record the call, you don’t have to take notes and focus all of your attention on the conversation, and then transcribe the recording later. If you want to record, ask permission: in some places, it’s illegal to record a conversation without permission and it’s common courtesy to say you’re taping them. But it might put off a stranger; perhaps taping could wait until a second call.

#8. Leave a detailed voice mail message if there’s no answer.
State your name and that you would like to talk with them about the family history.  Leave your phone number and tell them that you will call them back. Consider leaving your email address and suggesting they email you with a convenient time to call back.

Be sure and keep track in your genealogy database each time you call and what messages you leave. Having a log of calls and voice mail messages you’ve left will help you keep track.

#9. “Must-ask” questions.

  • “Do you or anyone else in the family have any old family photographs, or a family Bible?
  • (Reassure the person that you would only be interested in obtaining copies of any pictures or mementos they might have.)
  • “Do you know anyone else in the family who has been doing family research?”
  • “May I have your permission to cite you as a source in print in the future?”
  • “Is it OK with you if I keep in touch from time to time?”

#10.  Wrap up the call.

  • Ask for their mailing address and email address.
  • Offer to give them your address and phone number.
  • Let them know you would be pleased to hear from them if they come across any other information, pictures, etc.

#11. Document the call. 

Sit down at the computer or your notepad right away and make detailed notes about the phone conversation while it’s fresh in your mind. Include the person’s name, address, phone number and date of conversation. Make notes regarding any items you think may be questionable to remind you to go back and do more research on those points. At the bottom of the page list the ACTION items that come to mind that you want to follow up on based on the conversation. Enter their contact information into your genealogy database as well as your email contact list.

#12. Enter new information Into your genealogy database. 

This is a must. Do it right away while it’s on your mind.

#13. Create an action item list. 

Create action items based on what you learned.  Ask yourself “What are the logical next steps to take considering what you’ve learned through this interview?”  The call is not the end result, it’s a step in the research process, and it can really help to make this list now, and while it’s fresh in your mind.

#14.  Follow up. 

Send the person a written note or email thanking them for taking the time to talk with you. If the person mentioned that they would look for pictures or would look up something in a family Bible etc., mention in your note that you would still be interested in anything they can help you with and that you would be glad to pay any copying expenses, postage etc. Offer to provide copies of your information or copies of pictures you have etc. You never know: they might catch the genealogy bug and become your new research partner!

Next, put their birthday on your calendar and send them a card on their next birthday.  It’s another way of keeping the connection going and expressing that you really do appreciate all their help. Try this service: Birthday Alarm.

Occasionally make a follow up call to check in and see how they are doing, share any new family items she’s come across recently, and ask if they have they heard or found anything else.

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