Getting Children interested in Genealogy. I am sure many of us wonder what is going to happen to our genealogy research when we stop being a researcher and become an ancestor! Will it all get throw in a bin with all the out of date magazines and books we never got round to reading? I sincerely hope not, but one way to try to ensure it is kept safe and handed down to the next generation is to get your children or grandchildren interested in family history.
Here is how I encourage my grandchildren to take an active interest in their family history and hopefully take that forward into their adult lives.
Getting Children interested in Genealogy – Drawing a Family Tree
Print off one or more of the FREE Children’s Family Tree Charts from the MadAboutGenealogy Resource Library. I have created a number of different children’s charts so there are plenty for the child to choose from. Help the child fill in the chart starting with themselves and then adding as much information as they know. When they get to information that they don’t know ask them who might know? If the person they are wanting details of is close to hand then get them to show that person the tree and ask their questions. If this isn’t possible then you could help them find the answers by showing them certificates, census etc that you have used to find out about that person
When as much as the tree is filled in as is possible move onto the next stage.
Getting Children interested in Genealogy – Finding photos
Get out your photo albums and show then to the child telling them who the person is and get them to identify them on their family tree. You could then make a copy of the photo using your printer (the quality doesn’t have to be 100%) and then ask the child to write the persons name and details, which they have on the family tree, on the back of the copy. Talk about the importance of photos to your family and how we can remember people by having photos of them. Talk about what they are wearing and encourage questions about what life was like when the person was the same age as the child.
If you don’t have a photograph of a family member perhaps the child could draw a picture of how they think they looked.
Getting Children interested in Genealogy – Online Research
Depending on the age of the child you could then show the child how you do research online. It’s a good idea to have a few things that you know are online and “discover” them together. Explain the types of documents you are looking at and why they were created originally. If the child is old enough you can talk about what life was like when the documents were writing. Maps always go down well with children particularly if you can find and print off a street map showing where they live and where their ancestors live. Google maps is really good for this.
Getting Children interested in Genealogy – Putting it all together
Taking the project to the final stage can be great fun. Bring together the family tree chart, the photos or drawings and prints of the documents that you found together online. Put them in order of generations starting with the child and working back to parents, grandparents etc. A cover can be drawn and coloured in illustrating the family. Make sure that the child’s name is on the front cover as the author and researcher of the work.
Place everything in order into a folder. Children like a sense of completion so putting together the family history is an important part for them. You could take a photo of the child holding the completed family history and place that in as well. Then you can both share your hard work with the wider family and await the congratulations on a job well done!
Getting Children interested in Genealogy – summary
Working through the process above you will have helped your child to learn several important genealogy skills.
- Fill in a family tree chart
- Interviewing people
- Importance of photographs in genealogy
- Reviewing the information you have and deciding what you need to find out
- Conducting online research
- Keeping research together in the right order
- Sharing the research with the wider family
You may be surprised how well this works with children as young as 5 years old. I have supervised several workshops for children and am always amazed at how quickly they pick up the whole process of researching ancestors – quicker than some adults it has to be said! This is a really good past-time for a rainy day in the school holidays or when the extended family is gathered together. Put plenty of time to one side for these activities and be prepared to be asked plenty of questions, some of which might surprise you!
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