Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Dearth of History Knowledge

I write about the subject from time to time because I an constantly reminded about the dismal state of history education in the United States. I very recently had the opportunity to review the history textbook used by one of my granddaughters in her junior high school history class. I can remember my own American History class from high school and recall that we never got past the U.S. Civil War. In my high school, the American History class was one semester and Economics was the second semester of the school year. I guess for that reason, I was not too surprised that my granddaughter's history book did not include anything about World Wars I and II, the Korean Conflict (aka the Korean War), or any war since the Korean War, including the war in Vietnam. The entire westward expansion of the United States was covered in four pages. I guess the teachers and educators (two different categories) decided since they never got past the Civil War, there was no need to include those chapters in future textbooks.

Unfortunately, I find this same lack of historical awareness to be rampant among many of the members of our genealogical community. This is likely through no fault of their own, since they may have had the same experience I had in high school and earlier.

If you want to test your historical awareness, just consider the following list of dates and tell me what they all have in common? Unlike many published quizzes, I will not publish the answers at the bottom of the page. But I would suggest that if your ancestors lived in that part of America that became the United States, you may want to do a historical background check and determine if you need to search for information about your ancestors that pertains to the event's dates listed here.

  • 1675-1676
  • 1689-1697
  • 1702-1713
  • 1744-1748
  • 1756-1763
  • 1759-1761
  • 1775-1783
  • 1798-1800
  • 1801-1805, 1815
  • 1812-1815
  • 1813-1814
  • 1836
  • 1846-1848
  • 1861-1865
  • 1898
  • 1914-1918
  • 1939-1945
  • 1950-1953
  • 1960-1975
  • 1961
  • 1983
  • 1989
  • 1990-1991
  • 1995-1996
  • 2001
  • 2003

After looking through this list, if the dates don't start to look familiar, then you really do need to spend some time with a good U.S. History book and not one used in a junior high school. As I talk to patrons and volunteers and those who attend my classes, I sometimes feel like they believe that their ancestors lived in an isolated cocoon.


  1. Right along with the lack of good history education, at least in my South Carolina schools, is the absence of classroom geography work. I am a bit of a "map freak/geek" and am still amazed when a fellow genealogy buff has no clue as to just how far and what kind of terrain his ancestor traversed on his way from Virginia to that cheap land in western Georgia.

    1. Good point. They did not teach geography as a separate subject in my high school.