Friday, September 25, 2009

Local history research is meeting people

I went to a baptism the other day. Turns out the person's parents were well known not only in my local ward, but throughout the Stake. The Stake President stopped by, members of the high council, a past Stake President. Turns out the family had been members for a several generations. After the service I started meeting the people who had come to celebrate the momentous occation. In the midst of the conversations I met descendents of people I had been researching. I also learned a couple things I wanted to share

1. Talk to people. Introduce yourself and start a conversation. I am pretty introverted. Left to my own devices I will quite happily never say hello to a stranger. It is wonder I ever got married, let along got a date. But that is story for another day.

2. Shut up and listen. I actually had to fight the urge to show off what I knew. It even got worse as someone would say something obviouosly wrong. But I heard a little voice in my head say shut up and listen. I'm glad I did.

For example, when Hayden Church heard the gospel from a missionary visiting Duck River, Tennessee, in 1840, he decided "if you want the purest water, go to the source" so he went to Nauvoo to meet Joseph Smith. I love that expression, but had I said "Oh I know that story" I would not have heard it told just that way.

So if you are interested in local historical research, talk to people, get them talking, then shut up and listen.


Ardis Parshall said...

Other than picking the brains of a few aunts for family history, I've never tried to gather history from living sources. If I'm ever in a situation to do this, I'll try to remember your advice.

Come to think of it, I was recently in a discussion that supports your advice with a negative example. I'd run across a written account involving a ward member's father, and the next Sunday I asked the ward member about it. I was really trying to find out whether he had this particular source (if not, I'd have given it to him), but he was so busy telling me that yes, he knew the story, that I never could find out whether he had this specific source that might have added a detail or two.

BruceCrow said...

Yes, in that case he should have "shut up" and listened. It is human nature to want to be heard and not so much to hear.

"Let anyone with ears to hear, listen"