Make Genealogy a Family Affair

Home & Family, Traditions
on January 2, 2005

One way to make history come alive for your children is to introduce them
to genealogy. When children learn about their personal history, they’re able to
relate it to the history they learn in class. They also become aware of different
cultures while gaining pride in their heritage.

A family history is more than just dates and documents. To engage your children,
find ways to help them become connected to their ancestors. Try these activities
to spark their interest in your family tree:

o Bring the story to life-Just like in kindergarten, it’s better to show than
tell. Let your children touch old family documents, heirlooms and other souvenirs
from the past. “My mother gave us a piece of hard tack that my great-great
uncle had to eat during the Civil War,” says Scott Lorenz of Plymouth,
Mich. “She showed us bullets from the battlefield. I was only 10, but she
definitely had my attention.”

o Get the scoop-Every reporter knows the best way to get the inside scoop is
to go right to the source. In the case of family history, who better to tell
the tale than grandparents and other older relatives? Help your child create
a list of questions, arm him with a tape recorder or video camera, and let the
stories flow. Your child will have the opportunity to bond with an older relative,
as well as create a permanent record of the family’s past.

o Special delivery-A great way to learn about our ancestors-and see them as
real people-is to read old correspondence. Be it an old announcement, love note
or thank you card, letters have a way of engaging the reader, even generations
after they were written. Another idea: Arrange for your child to be a “pen
pal”-via the postal service or e-mail-to an older relative.

o Everybody is a star-The members of your family are the stars of your family
tree, so treat them as such. Encourage your kids to collect autographs, messages
and instant photos at family events such as weddings, christenings or reunions.
Then your child can refer to the photo and put a face on the “featured
characters” in the family history. You also can use the snapshots to create
a visual family tree.

By connecting with their ancestors, children become more aware of themselves,
their place in the family-and in the future as well.