Family History Research

NGS Home Study Course Update

on March 21, 2011

I have blogged about the fact I’m working through the National Genealogical Society Home Study Course (NGS HSC). I’m two lessons away from finishing CD 1. I submitted a lesson last week which I now expect will be returned as incomplete and I’ll have to rewrite part of it. Here is the confusing part of the assignment and my take on it.

The assignment is basically this: Ask family about a family tradition using questions like these, “Who or what is the source of this tradition? How was it gathered? How much time has passed since this event is said to have occurred? What is the probability the event occurred?”

Then it goes on to say, “Write a brief account (½ to 1 page) of a family tradition that has been passed on ……  (Note: a family custom does not fulfill the objectives of this assignment. An example of a custom is that everyone gathers at Grandma’s house for dinner on Sunday.) Tell about the ancestors. Who were they? Where did they come from? What did they do? Include names, dates, and places that are part of the story. Evaluate the tradition. Tell the aspects you believe are accurate and which you suspect are not. Summarize research you have done to prove or disprove the tradition and research you plan to do.”

So according to online dictionaries, tradition is defined as the handing down of statements, beliefs, customs, legends, cultural practices through generations.  A custom is defined as a habitual practice.

I wrote about the fact my Czech family celebrates St. Nicholas Day. I discussed my mom’s side of the family celebrating it for several generations and how I heard it was celebrated. I continued by saying I participate in this tradition with my children.

Looking through the example submission on the course CD, the submission presented a family story about a great grandfather coming from England to the U.S. and marrying twice, the last time his housekeeper. It goes on to talk about land he owned and losing it in a gambling match.

I asked another genealogy colleague about this and we both wondered what the tradition was in this submission. Is it possible we all grow up thinking a custom is a tradition and vice versa when in fact we have the definitions confused?

So I ask you to join in the conversation. What do you think traditions and customs are? How do you define it? Can you give an example from your family? Please share your thoughts.

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2 responses to “NGS Home Study Course Update

  1. From my reading of your description of the course requirement, I would venture a guess that an example of a ‘tradition’ of statement or belief in my family would be that my great grandmother was born in England and that her parents were also born in and emigrated from England. All of these beliefs or statements were a tradition or belief handed down in my family, but all appear to me based on the evidence to be false.

    The traditions or statements in the NGS example you provide would be that the grandfather came from England, married twice, the last time to his housekeeper. that the grandfather owned land and lost it in a gambling match. These were family traditions or beliefs handed down.

    Jennifer, Thank you for sharing your journey. As you may have read on my blog, I plan to start the NGS course this year and your feedback has been invaluable. Jennifer

  2. Thanks, again, for the update.
    Let me try an answer, as well.
    From my readings and conversations: “Family tradition” is a phrase used by genealogists to refer to oral family information that is not yet verified by at least one reliable independent source. [Therefore, it is a special term used by genealogists, not a general term where you can go to the dictionary and look it up!]

    In my family, my ‘favorite’ it is “Our Kinnick ancestors came from Holland.” There is no basis in fact, whatsoever. One elderly gentleman, back in Indiana, respected as a family elder, speculated on it, once, and it got picked up by a lady who wrote a family book. Some family members may have come ‘through’ Holland – as the puritans did, on their way from England to America, but their is no evidence, anywhere, that the family ‘came from Holland.’ …almost like ‘an old wives tale.’

    I mark anything in my notes that comes via oral report from family members as ‘family tradition’ until I can remove the label by independent verification in census or other vital records.

    I look forward to other comments, as well. ;-)

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