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Mason County Memories

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"You can't depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus" ~ Mark Twain

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History Columns are arranged by year of publication in the Ludington Daily News

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Genealogy for kids

I know that several of the schools have a family history project and I recall my son completing a family history sheet in the fifth grade at MCC. Whether this is something that is done as a school project or something that is done as a family winter activity away from video games with a little creativity it can be interesting and fun.

Getting started on researching the family tree can be as easy as picking up a pencil and paper and beginning with yourself, who you are, when you were born, what church you go to, your brothers and sisters, and all the things that you enjoy, and think are fun.

A good family history doesn't just have facts of when a person was born, and whom they married but it has those things and stories that make the person come alive in the pages of the family history. Those of us who got started working on our family history as adults really get excited about finding old photographs, school pictures, drawings, diaries and other personal belongings of our parents, grandparents and other older ancestors.

They are treasures and putting together a family history from the perspective of a 4th or 5th grader is going to provide you a time capsule that in later years, [like when you're a 12th grader] you'll really enjoy. What is important here is that you write down everything that you can.

Interview your brothers and sisters, and your parents. Ask your parents how they met, their favorite story about dating, having kids, and fondest memories. Sometimes little facts and trivia can be fun too. I found out that one of my Great Grandmother's used to put a little salt in her coffee, and her husband played the violin by ear.

Where do they work, and why, did they have other dreams as a kid of what they wanted to do when they grew up? After you have finished with your parents then its time to ask about Grand parents. Many of the same questions apply to each generation but there are others that can be fun as well. Like what kind of kid was your Mother, or Father? Are there any stories they can tell? What was it like before we had Television?

When you are working on your family tree, you get to see your parents and other ancestors as people and you can learn a great deal about history as well. History isn't boring, it is sometimes taught that way though. Finding out how history affected your family and how you came to live in Ludington Michigan could be a good story.

My Grandfather Earl Shaw came from Indiana to Hart Michigan about 1919 with Archie Campbell on the back of an old motorcycle, they rented a room with Art Purdy, his daughter Naomi called her cousin Fern to tell her that there were boys from Indiana staying over and that is how they first met.

Get out your family album, sit down with your parents and go through the pictures, get them to tell you stories about what was going on when the pictures were taken, if your grandparents are still around sit down and do the same thing with them. Take notes, or record their stories on a tape recorder.

There are a lot of other local resources, there are archives and newspaper microfilm at White Pine Village, and the Mason County District Library, in the courthouse you will find marriage records, property tax rolls, wills, and many people take tombstone rubbings or photographs of tombstones in the cemetery to add to their family records.

Rootsweb has a website with printable forms to help kids working on genealogy projects at http://www.rootsweb.com/~usgwkidz and there are other very good free resources online.

You may not find royalty in your family tree but so far I've found three GG Grandparents who served in the civil war, two ancestors who served in the Revolutionary War, one whose factory provided gunpowder to George Washington's army and one cousin Lt. P Marsteller who was a pallbearer at his funeral. It made studying history much more interesting especially when we discovered that another relative was arrested for treason by Lt. Marsteller during the whiskey rebellion and marched to Pittsburgh in chains to stand trial. He was acquitted and went on to serve honorably in the War of 1812.

Your family story whether you came to this country last week, last year or 10,000 years ago is the story of America and whether you are 10 years old or 100 it's a story worth preserving and a history worthy of telling. So get out that pencil and paper, call your grandparents and get to fun.

TEACHERS: If your students have genealogy or local history stories they would like to share, send them C/O Ludington Daily News and I will include some of them in future columns.

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