Get Your Kids Involved in Your Family History
by Bob Brooke
Genealogy isn't just for older folks. Through genealogy, kids can gain a better
appreciation for their heritage. And while an older person might keep the historic
records, family history is just that-a history of the family. So get your kids and
While you may spend countless hours searching through old records, scanning
photographs, and creating your family tree, your kids will find that boring. But they
may find researching occupations of their ancestors fun. Children like-indeed, they
need-hands on activities. After finding what occupations your ancestors had,
determine if there are any places where your children might see those occupations
being practiced first hand. If an occupation is still being practiced, take them to
see it in action. Visit a steel mill or a coal mine. Spend a few days on a working
farm-many farms now offer bed and breakfast-style accommodations for families.
If an occupation is long gone, read about it in books or on the Internet, then take
your children to museums showcasing that occupation. Perhaps they can create a
scrapbook about their ancestor with that occupation to share in school in the Fall.
For those ancestors involved in the military, your children can learn about specific
branches of the service or a particular battle. And that doesn't mean just the
Revolutionary War. Possibly you fought in the Pacific in World War II. There's an
excellent museum in Fredricksburg, Texas, devoted to the war in the Pacific Theater.
They can follow you as you reminisce about the battles you fought. It will put them
right there. Boys, in particular, will love the full size Japanese submarine and the
war guns and planes on display. You can also take tours of certain military bases.
Contact your representative in Congress.
Perhaps your ancestor was a woman who raised ten kids and took care of the house in
the late 19th century. Show your children what that was like by visiting a living
history historic site and later making some of her recipes together.
Children tend to be more enthusiastic about projects and trips when they're involved
in the planning process. Discuss the types of visits or indoor activities that you
have in mind. See which ones catch their interest, but don't let them totally
determine what you should do. Remember, children appreciate a guiding hand, although
they may not realize it at the time. Have them look for information online, for
example. They may even get excited about an activity once they've seen a Web site
Also, children of different ages like to do different things. If your children vary
widely in age, you must take that into consideration so that no one gets bored. Keep
in mind your child's attention level. One child may be able to sit and work quietly
for an hour or more while another seeks out active play.
Do any interesting relatives live near you? Plan a visit and have your children
interview that person. Let them develop a list of questions based on what you know
about them. They can either write down their answers or tape-record them.
A follow-up activity to visits to relatives would be to publish a family newsletter.
Besides writing up the interviews with older relatives, they can prepare a calendar
of family events and even write stories about their visits to historic sites and the
Finally, take a family history vacation. Use the family history information that you
and your children have gathered to plan an interesting vacation. Have your children
plot the places their ancestors lived on a map. They can then research either online
or at the library events and locations related to their family history. By visiting
those ancestral places, you will be helping them develop a sense of family history.
Help them collect present-day postcards of the places you visit and compare them with
those collected by relatives long ago. Lastly, have them create a scrapbook of their
vacation to share with other family members
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