I have discovered that the study of Genealogy is a great segue into history, geography, research, writing, and math.
What is Genealogy? It comes from two Greek words, one meaning generations and the other meaning knowledge.
As we study and research our ancestors we can often discover where they lived, conditions that caused them to move, routes traveled, occupations, and more. Their stories can inform and strengthen us.
The best place to start...
Where is the best place to start? The best place to start is with you, your immediate family, and where you live. As families do this together they begin to see and understand that they are a part of history.
When I was a child, I lived in Hawaii, thousands of miles away from my relatives. All my friends could rattle off that they were 1/4 Hawaiian, 1/4 German, 1/2 Chinese, or other combinations. I knew nothing of my heritage and I began to ask questions with few answers. When we visited the Mainland USA, my father and mother would take me back to visit their aunts and uncles. I asked questions and began to get answers.
When I was in college, my Aunt Grace was going to Germany with her daughter, to meet the family my cousin had lived with as an exchange student. My aunt knew I had talked with her uncle in Indiana and that he had taken me to the little German Lutheran Church her great-grandparents had attended and that I knew where they came from. I gave her the name of the town they were from, in Germany. When my Aunt got to Germany, she hired a genealogist to assist her.
Genealogy had been easy for Uncle Bill, my Aunt Grace's Quaker husband. They lived in a stone home in Pennsylvania. That home had been in his family for over 200 years. They lived a block from the church, where his family had attended that church. The cemetery next to the church is where is family was buried. There were ancestors buried in that cemetery going back over 200 years. He just walked over to the church and was able to get the signatures of his family members for 200 years. Easy peasy! So, my aunt wanted to know her roots. Several years later, she wanted to belong to the Daughters of the American Revolution. So, she contacted me for help.
We discovered through our research that 7/8ths of our ancestry were in America prior ro the Revolutionary War. Two great great-grand parents of mine came to America from Germany as children.
We have since discovered pilgrims, patriots, pioneers, benevolent monarchs, terrible tyrants, craftsmen, farmers, sheriffs, blacksmiths, ministers, and more. We researched, followed their journeys across continents, learned of history of their time, and wrote about it.
On 17 September, we commemorate Shiffbruchs Gottesdienst (Shipwreck Thanksgiving Feast), with our family. That was the date of Heaven's rescue.
In May 1831, a group of my ancestors, their relatives and close friends left Darmstadt, Germany. They traveled over 400 miles to board the ship, the Brig James Beacham Galt, for Baltimore, Maryland. They left because their sons would be conscripted into the military at sixteen. They also found that they could buy land in Ohio for $2 an acre. My twenty-three month-old great-great grandmother, Elisabeta, was on board. She was traveling with her parents, her mother’s parents, her mother's three sisters, as well as many cousins and some neighbors. There was about 160 passengers in all, and most were related. The ship they traveled on was brand new and was on its maiden voyage. It was their captain's first Atlantic crossing voyage. After sixty-five days on the Atlantic, they hit a hurricane and were tossed for two days. They lost their mast, their rudder, and were taking on water. The crew almost mutinied. However, they were prevented from doing so, by relatives with guns.
Soon, a brave fourteen year-old cousin, Margarethe Arras, suggested that Jesus calmed the seas and saved his disciples. She said that maybe he would save them. It was near midnight and the ship was taking on water fast. A crew suggested someone slap her and that they were all going to drown. She stood and began singing the Lutheran hymn, A Mighty Fortress is Our God. The passengers and many of the crew joined in. Shortly, the seas calmed and the ship rested on a sandbar, off the coast, just south of Cape Henry, Virginia.
At dawn, they discovered they were about one hundred yards off shore. This was just three weeks after the Nat Turner Slave Rebellion, less than eighty miles away, in Southampton, Virginia. Though there was racial tension in Virginia, it was slaves on Cape Henry, who came to the rescue of the passengers. The slaves along the coast were their benefactors. These passengers were from an area of Germany where they had never seen a person of color. They were at sea when the uprising happened. These Germans had not yet seen American slavery. The passengers were grateful to God and the rescue he sent. The passengers vowed to celebrate the day of their rescue, as a holy day, unto the third, and fourth generation. They nick named the ship, the Famous Dove. I am the fourth generation descendant of one of the youngest passengers on board the Famous Dove. All of the passengers and crew survived, except for a child and an infant who died crossing the Atlantic.
It took about five years for these immigrants to work their way to Maryland, then to Pennsylvania, and then to Ohio. My direct ancestors moved on to Indiana, where my German great-great grandmother, Elisabeta, met my German great-great grandfather, Jakob, (who came to America in 1836 as a child) and they married.
When I was a child, the only vestige of this story that was passed to me was that I had a group of ancestors who got permission from the Duke, to come to the United States to avoid military conscription. The above story is the rest of the story or at least a lot more of it. However, this is just one incident in the lives of two great-great grandparents.
In the process of finding out more about our genealogy, we engaged in research, writing, history, geography, some math, and more. When looking at the stories mentioned above, one can see many gateways into learning, that could lead to other research. In the process, a student would read, research, learn history, learn geography, would use math, and writing. Some call this project based, and it is. Others would call this unit studies, and it is. Others would call this notebooking, and it is that, too! We encourage children to include their family history in their Book of Centuries. Along with current events, studying the Power of an Hour, children will learn about other lands and they can notebook that into their book of Nations. Genealogy is a gateway to further learning.
Add Genealogy to your home education studies, it makes for a great unit study, project based study, or notebooking. The great thing about it is the children do not even need to know they are doing school and there is no busy work!
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