Friday, October 28, 2011

I come by it honestly__Our teenage experiment

Joseph Hatten Carpenter, my great grandfather (father's father's father) was an amazing genealogist. When he immigrated to the United States from England he became very interested in his family history and over the course of his life he collected information about over 40,000
people who intersected with his ancestral lines. At the time, you did genealogy by writing back and forth to parish priests in England and asking for information out of their records. As he was sent letters containing all the parish records about a certain name, the Alders, the Shramms, the
Carpenters, the Meiers, The Rotachs, The Wrights, The Bevans, The Gibbs, and etc, he would sit in his living room in Manti and piece together the families from those records. He used pencil and paper and was a meticulous record keeper. When he died at the age of 103, he had collected 18 volumes of family group sheets and other various pedigree charts and records. These were passed down through the family to my father’s cousin Mark Carpenter. Over the years, various cousins have worked on these lines, but no one has ever really brought all of grandpa’s work into the digital age.

Grandfather knew he was collecting information on more than just his direct line ancestors. In fact, he wrote in his journals that he knew he was tracing 3 lines that he assumed were connected back before the records started. As far as the cousins have been able to tell so far, there are probably only 3-4000 people who are actually on my own lines.

Mark has graciously gone through and taken pictures of each of the pages of the 18 volumes of family group sheets. We have set up these images on a and we proposed to do a family digitization project. In working with this part of my family, it has become really clear to me that no one person can really build on my grandfather’s work. He had a very quiet life in rural Utah and none of us have the luxury of the kind of time he had to work on his family history. In order to digest and build on his work, we are going to have to work together as a family to digitize what he did so that we can use modern techniques of building on and gleaning from what he gathered.

So, although his genealogy work is a derivative source, we’ve decided to digitize those family group sheets into a computer program. We’ve done this for several reasons that are outlined on the website here. Derivative sources are valuable if:
  • A derivative source adds analysis
  • A derivative source points to material that we may not have found otherwise
  • A derivative source is in error—along with an explanation of why the source is wrong
  • A derivative source cites a work that no longer exists.
One of my cousins actually thinks he went wrong just a couple of generations up, but he may be looking at sources my grandfather never saw, or my grandfather may have been looking at sources unavailable to my cousin now. We have to digest his work to be able to tell.

So this fall, I asked my 10 year old daughter, 13 year old son and 15 year old son if we could try to digitize one of the volumes of my great-grandfather’s genealogy work for my parents for Christmas. As I said earlier, it’s been a slow start. But stay tuned—I’m still working on them.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

True confessions.

Warning: A bit long, but very real :)
Ok. So I have a REAL confession to make. (and then I’m going to fix it.) Let me start at the beginning of the story.

As school was starting this year, a family crisis came to fruition. The kid’s school has gone to a BYOD (Bring your own device) school. They are doing all sorts of wonderful things with computers/ipads/smart phones in the classrooms. They warned us that this was going to happen so both of my sons worked for our company this summer and earned the money for their own laptops. I was so proud of them and their hard work—until the laptops came. Then we had a problem. I could not surgically remove their faces from those computer screens. Throughout August we had several conflicts over wanting them to “get a life”

During this period, I remembered Tom Underhill’s book *Hyperstimulation* and I went back to that book for help. Then—at the perfect time, Tom came out to the UGA conference and, bless his heart, he let me corner him for a counseling session. After talking to him quite a bit at the conference, it came very clear that my boys were only following their parent’s examples. Yes, we were working 24/7 with our computers surgically attached to our faces—but we were earning a living. We love what we do and it’s easy to be completely obsessed with it. Well, Tom helped me realize that the kids didn’t really distinguish between us working and what they were doing on their computers. And he led me to the realization that I was expecting them to get a life off the computer, when I didn’t have one. I had to walk the walk.

So we made some changes in the Hovorka household. Throughout September, we’ve reorganized and set limits. We had already done some more hiring at Family ChartMasters so I was able to step back a little more and try to have a life. It’s been really good for all of us. You have to have some balance. I’m still obsessed with our company and genealogy, but I’m doing it in a more healthy way.

So here’s the part that gets interesting:
A couple of weeks ago we decided we would work on a digitization family history present for my parents for Christmas. The kids were all on board because they love my parents and they knew that they would really love this gift. Last weekend we got them started. We loaded genealogy software on their computers and hooked my computer up to the projector and showed the kids how to proceed with this project. In just a short time they were dragging. Dragging, dragging, dragging.

And I started thinking:
I have lectured all over the country about how to involve your children in their family history. I have a great example of that in my mother—she eventually got me even though I wasn’t interested to start with. And I’ve done lots of family history activities with my kids—when they were younger. I was a great genealogist when they were younger. But then I started a genealogy company. And as I’ve said many times, the worst thing you can do for your own genealogy is start a genealogy company. I have spent lots of time with other people’s genealogy but a lot less time with my own in the last 8 years. And the kids have watched that. And followed our path.

So I had some great talks with my 15 year old son this last week—if I could get him interested in family history it would be so good for him. And I would probably let him have a lot more time on the computer. As I’ve talked about before, I honestly believe family history will save the world—it is so good to know where you are from. And it is so so good for children, and especially through those rough teenage years to know the inspiring examples of those who came before. (And as I’ve said time and time again, if you don’t have someone inspiring in your family history, you just haven’t done enough family history yet.) My 15 year old is perfect for genealogy. He is bright and curious and he’s really good on the computer and the internet. He’s a bit more scientifically minded than historically minded but I know he’d love it if I could get him started.

So I have to walk the walk. Kim and I have been talking about how to get them going. I’ve got several ideas in mind. I’m going to give him his own copy of my genealogy database and let him go at it, but walk along with him on that, we’ve got this digitization project for Christmas, and I might start taking them back to the library. Stay tuned. This might get to be quite the reality show.