Thursday, February 07, 2008

Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Maybe I'm changing my mind once again!

After watching the premier of Dr. Gates' (he is professor of English specializing in African-American studies at Harvard--see,_Jr.) new PBS show, African-American Lives II, and his new web site (, I reenergized about genealogical research. Dr. Gates speaks at IPFW tonight, I'm asking my research methods students to attend his lecture, and I'm meeting him at a reception at the Chancellor's house tonight.

Back when I had the opportunity to teach First Year writing (it's been too long--I love teaching freshmen), I often gave my students this assignment: talk to your parents, or a grandparent, and try to identify the most distant ancestor your family has a direct link to. Do some research, find as much about this person, where they lived, what they did, and write an essay about this experience. It was an assignments students tended to engage in because the more they resesarched, the more they engage with the subject matter. It didn't seem to matter what the family situation was--some of my students who were adopted or living with foster parents wrote some of the best papers!

While listening to Dr Gates, I realize I've never written this essay myself, despite the fact that I've done an enormous amount of research on my ancestor, Roger Amidon (Ammidowne, Annadowne), who first appears in the records of Salem Massachusetts in 1630. It's time to write that essay, "Who is Roger Amidon?"


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