Family History Research

NGS Home Study Course Update

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.