Last week I taught my third graders the importance of character traits. By the time the lesson was over, I was humbled by my little folks' minds and comments. It made realize that genealogy ideas for research and writing can come from any location, place, or setting. Children have the most erratic but flexible minds...that is way I love working with them.
It began with my story of my sea captain, James Peters. I told the class of the time period after the American Revolution when the French began to suspect their new American allies were still friendly to the English and were likely to act like them. Both the English and French navies were impressing American sailors into service and the results leading to the French Spoliation. Fascinated by James Peters' story of hiding his ship logs so that the French Navy couldn't confiscate his cargo, my class assisted me in creating a character traits for him. Here is a snippet of the conversation that day...
"He had to be strong to sail the ship."
"He had to brave to fight off pirates or to sail to places he never had been before."
"What color was his hair?" Which I responded that I didn't know. "It could be possible that it was black and curly like yours." Hmm... I never thought about that.
"Did he have a beard? That would make a good disguise to hide him from the pirates."
"He could have had blue eyes like you!"
"He had to be smart to hide the his papers."
"He had to be friendly so he could meet and make new friends." I didn't think of that possibility!
"He had to know how to read maps so he wouldn't get lost."
"He had to know how to read ." I had told him how 1001 Arabian Nights was in his book collection from his will.
"And he knew how to write ." This was after I told them how one of his letters is recorded in the Congressional Records.
"He could speak French!" piped one little boy. Oui! I didn't think about that!
"He was lonely." When asked to explain, the student said, "He sailed away from his family to help them have a better life. He must have missed them very much."
When we were through I stepped back and examined at the traits. Whether or not these traits were right, it gave me a moment to reflect on what I learned. Thanks to my students I was able to understand my ancestor a little better.