Doing Genealogy as a Historian

Sarah McNair Vosmeier

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Course Description
This class explores the intersection of history and genealogy.  Each discipline is strengthened by borrowing from the other, but historians and genealogists tend to have somewhat different mindsets and practices.  You will learn genealogical best practices by doing research on your own families and on the family of a client.  (The client this term will be President Lambert.)  As we follow census records backward in time, we will also consider the arguments historians have made about the eras our families experienced.
    The television miniseries Roots, first broadcast forty years ago this winter, represents the intersection that this class explores.  Enormously popular, it reshaped the way many Americans thought about both history and genealogy.  Putting Roots in historical context and treating it as "appointment television" will help us understand its influence on those who watched it in 1977.

Calculating Final Grades

                    12%    biographical essay
                    17%    historical essay
                    16%     client presentations
                    15%     midterm
                    20%     final exam
                    20%     preparation and participation

Nota Bene
Our class time provides an opportunity, rare in modern life, to focus for an extended time on a single task and conversation.  Please do not multitask -- to avoid distraction for others and temptation for ourselves, we will not use laptops, cell phones, etc. during lectures and discussions.  Thus you will need to bring assigned texts to class in paper form.  You will need a laptop for class time set aside for workshops.

Late papers will be penalized, and in-class assignments cannot be made up.  If you have an emergency and want to request an exception to this rule, contact me before the due date.

Items needed for this class:
-    RootsMagic database software
-    a bound journal
-    Hacker's Rules for Writers
-    All the reading assignments are available online, and you will need to print them out for notetaking and class discussion.

About Papers, Presentations, Exams, Preparation, and Participation:

    The biographical essay will make an argument about the life of someone in your family or our client's family (1000-1500 words).
    The historical essay will make a historical argument, supporting it with evidence from primary sources, including ones genealogists use, and scholarly secondary sources of the type historians use (2200-3000 words).

    We will be giving two presentations to our client, updating him on the results of our research on his family.  Each student will take responsibility for a different portion of the presentation.

    Exams will include identifications and essay questions.

Preparation and Participation:
    This class depends on everyone's preparing and participating fully.  People who excel in this aspect of the class show evidence of preparing carefully for class; they make useful comments or ask helpful questions in discussion and workshops; and they facilitate others' success as well. 
    Note that genealogy requires attention to detail, logical analysis, and care in managing sources, as does history, but small mistakes in genealogy can have painful long-term consequences in frustration and wasted effort.  Thus, this portion of your final grade includes low-risk assignments that reward you in the short term for practices you'll appreciate in the long term, including genealogical proof arguments.  Other brief assignments -- such as marginalia checks or study guide contributions -- allow you to demonstrate careful preparation and facilitate our common endeavors.
    The "Journal for My Descendants" and "Reliving Roots" projects are included in this portion of your grade.


Introduction, Definitions, and Background

Jan. 9, 2017 (Mon.)    Lecture: "Defining Terms." 
Jan. 11, 2017 (Wed.)    Vosmeier, "On Marginalia," 2016 (online); Hanover College History Department, "Style Sheet for Chicago Manual Footnotes" (online, with appendix); Board for Certification of Genealogists, "Code of Ethics," 1994 (online).
            Lecture: "Use of Sources and 'Genealogical Proof Standard' (GPS)."
Jan. 13, 2017 (Fri.)    Pratt, "Master Accreditation of the Genealogical Institute," 2013 (online).
            Lecture: "The History of Genealogy."
            Workshop: Getting organized.  

Following Our Families through the Early Twentieth Century

Jan. 16, 2017 (Mon.)    Irwin, "What Was the Greatest Era for Innovation?" 2016 (online). 
Jan. 18, 2017 (Wed.)    Jones, "Coming Clean," 2012 (online -- click "print" at the top of the right-hand tools menu).
            Lecture: "The Early Twentieth Century."
            Workshop: Exploring the 1940 census.
Jan. 20, 2017 (Fri.)    Perlmann, "Who Stayed in School?" 1985 (online -- click blue "download pdf" button, and then print); our census data on education (email).

Jan. 23, 2017 (Mon.)    "Watching Roots, January 23, 1977" (online); Roots, episode 1 (on reserve).
            Lecture: "The Great Depression."
Jan. 25, 2017 (Wed.)    "Watching Roots, January 24, 1977" (online); Roots, episode 2 (on reserve).  
            Workshop: Exploring the 1930 census.  
Jan. 27, 2017 (Fri.)    Douglas, Listening In, 3-21, 100-23 (online -- choose "Introduction" from the table of contents [left], and then "chapter download," which is the second icon at the top; next choose chapter 5 "Radio Comedy and Linguistic Slapstick" from the table of contents, and then chapter download; finally, print both pdf files); our census data on radios (email).

Jan. 30, 2017 (Mon.)    Goldberg, "Unmasking the Ku Klux Klan," 1996 (online -- click blue "download pdf" button, and then print).
            Lecture: "The Twenties."
Feb. 1, 2017 (Wed.)    "Watching Roots, January 25, 1977" (online); Roots, episode 3 (on reserve).  
            Workshop: Exploring the 1920 census.
Feb. 3, 2017 (Fri.)    "Watching Roots, January 26, 1977" (online); Roots, episode 4 (on reserve).  
            Lecture: "The Era of World War I."  

Feb. 6, 2017 (Mon.)    Capozzola, "Legacies for Citizenship," 2014 (online -- click on "pdf full text" on left, and then print); our census data on naturalization, immigration, and military service (email).
Feb. 8, 2017 (Wed.)    Workshop: Exploring the 1910 census.  
            Biographical essay due.
Feb. 10, 2017 (Fri.)    Almgren et al., "The Legacy of Hull House and the Children's Bureau in the American Mortality Transition," 2000 (online -- click on "pdf full text" on left, and then print); our census data on childbearing (email).   
            Lecture: "Turn-of-the-Century America."

Feb. 13, 2017 (Mon.)    "Watching Roots, January 27, 1977" (online); Roots, episode 5 (on reserve).
            Workshop: Exploring the 1900 census.
Feb. 15, 2017 (Wed.)    Review.  Workshop: Preparing client presentation.
Feb. 17, 2017 (Fri.)    Midterm exam.  Reliving Roots project due.

Feb. 20, 2017 (Mon.)     Schwartzberg, "Lots of Them Did That," 2004 (online -- click on "pdf full text" on left, and then print); our census data on marriage (email).  Speaking outline and slides due.  
Feb. 22, 2017 (Wed.)    Client presentations.

Following Our Families through the Late Nineteenth Century
Feb. 24, 2017 (Fri.)  Orin and Cowan, "Career Spotlight," 2015 (online).   Descendants Journal due.
            Lecture: Post-Civil War America.

Winter Break

Mar. 6, 2017 (Mon.)    "Watching Roots, January 28, 1977" (online); Roots, episode 6 (on reserve).   
            Workshop: Exploring the 1880 census.
Mar. 8, 2017 (Wed.)    McQuillan, "Mobility of Immigrants and Americans," 1979 (online -- click blue "download pdf" button, and then print); our census data on geographic mobility (email). Reconstruction Amendments, 1865-1870 (online); "Instructions to Assistant Marshalls," 1870 (online).
            Workshop: Exploring the 1870 census.  
Mar. 10, 2017 (Fri.)    Engle, "Mountaineer Reconstruction," 1993 (online -- click blue "download pdf" button, and then print); our census data on voting rights (email).

Mar. 13, 2017 (Mon.)    "Watching Roots, January 29, 1977" (online); Roots, episode 7 (on reserve).
            Lecture: "The Civil War."
Mar. 15, 2017 (Wed.)    Clarke, "So Lonesome I Could Die," 2007 (online -- click on "pdf full text" on left, and then print).
Mar. 17, 2017 (Fri.)    "Watching Roots, January 30, 1977" (online); Roots, episode 8 (on reserve). Mills and Mills, "The Genealogist's Assessment of Alex Haley's Roots," 1984 (online).
            Reliving Roots project due.

Mar. 20, 2017 (Mon.)    Swarns and Kantor, "In First Lady's Roots, a Complex Path from Slavery," 2009 (online); "One Paper Trail to the White House," 2009 (online -- Don't try to print this web interactive.  Instead, read the description to the right, and then page through the manuscripts to the left, clicking on the yellow highlighting for transcriptions and explanations. Make your own notes for discussion.).
            Workshop: Exploring the 1860 census.
Mar. 22, 2017 (Wed.)    Lecture: Antebellum America.
Mar. 24, 2017 (Fri.)    Workshop: Exploring the 1850 census.

Mar. 27, 2017 (Mon.)     Ferrie, "End of American Exceptionalism?" 2005 (online -- click on "pdf full text" on left, and then print); our census data on occupation and net worth (email)

Further Research and Conclusions

Mar. 29, 2017 (Wed.)       "County Histories," 1899 (online).  Workshop: Exploring county histories and the 1840 census.
Mar. 31, 2017 (Fri.)   Avila, "Pursuing the Dream in Nineteenth-Century Gallatin County," 2001 ( online); workshop data on county histories (email attachment).  Workshop:  Exploring the 1830 and 1820 censuses.

Apr. 3, 2017 (Mon.)    Lecture: The Early Republic.  Workshop: 1810 and 1800 census.
Apr. 5, 2017 (Wed.)    Main, "Rocking the Cradle," 2006 (online); workshop data on childbearing (email attachment).
Apr. 7, 2017 (Fri.)    Workshop: Exploring the 1790 census and other sources as needed.   Historical essay due.  

Apr. 10, 2017 (Mon.)    Assignment t.b.a.
            Lecture: "Further History and Practice of Genealogy" or t.b.a.
            Workshop: Preparing client presentation.  
Apr. 12, 2017 (Wed.)    Review.  Speaking outline and slides due.
Apr. 14, 2017 (Fri.)    Client presentations.  Descendants Journal due.