A number of years ago a university professor asked me to write a curriculum for a family history and genealogy class. He told me to make it “KISS.” Well, I hadn’t heard of that principle before so he added, “Keep it simple s_____.” You can fill in the blank.
Now the KISS principle is attributed to Clarence Leonard [Kelly] Johnson (1910-1990), an aeronautical engineer who led the design of the SR-71 Blackbird.1 He is noted as saying, “Our aim is to get results cheaper, sooner, and better through application of common sense to tough problems. If it works, don’t fix it…. Reduce reports and other paperwork to a minimum…. Keep it simple, stupid—KISS—is our constant reminder.”2
So there you have it, my instructions. Sometimes the thought of doing genealogy brings a vision of piles of files, endless reports, and isolation. It doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, does it? I can attest to this experience.
Years previous to the request to write a curriculum I enrolled in a university genealogy class. Weeks into it I thought, “never again!” I could not figure out the discrepancy. I had been doing genealogy since I could hold a “magic” marker, purple to be exact. I had designed a family tree by the time I could write, and before I ever saw one in printed form. Not to get personal, but no one in my family did such things. As an anomaly, I was having a lot of fun tracking down those ancestors anyway :-) Now, in this university setting I was saying, “something is so wrong here!” It was only appropriate that the time would come that I would be asked to write such a curriculum.
So I did. I wrote the curriculum. Originally, the request was to cover genealogy in four 30-minute lessons. I raised him two. The class increased exponentially and by the fourth cycle four times the number of students were in attendance. Simplicity breeds engagement. Simple is not superficial; it’s approaching a subject step by step, taking the time required without imposed deadlines so that one can cover the breadth and depth necessary to feel the satisfaction of a work well done. It’s finished when it’s finished. Granted, professionally speaking, deadlines are part of the contract, but for anyone reading this who’s just curious, has a question or two, or a compelling story to confirm, may I suggest you give it a KISS! Spend today with your loved ones and in future days I’ll share with you ways to KISS your heritage hunting. Happy Valentines Day!
- Ben R. Rich, Clarence Leonard (Kelly) Johnson 1910-1990: A Biographical Memoir (Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press, 1995), 221.
- Rich, Clarence Leonard (Kelly) Johnson 1910-1990, 231.
Copyright ©2013 Lynn Broderick and the Single Leaf. All Rights Reserved.