Winner of the Award of Excellence for Newspaper Columns,
2nd place, in the 2007 International Society of Family History Writers and Editors Competition.
Many of us have young people (children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews) in our lives that we would like to introduce to family history.
It is easy to bore a child with adult information and could turn them off to family history forever. The challenge is how to ignite that spark in a child so that they want to learn about their heritage.
One of the keys to teaching family history is to make it fun. When my children were young, I thought that they were too little to understand family history concepts. I believed that they would become interested in family history when they got older. That never happened. I did not know at the time that it was up to me to provide them with some well planned age appropriate activities.
My first grandchild was born six years ago and I vowed that I would not make the same mistake twice.
When my grandson, Jakob, was a toddler, I began introducing family history by showing him photographs of his great-grandparents. As he grew older, I added stories about the people in the photos. These little stories stimulated his natural curiosity about his family and had him asking for more.
Once Jakob started kindergarten, I needed more structured activities to keep his interest in genealogy alive. I went looking for some ideas and found the following books:
I also found the following Web sites to be very useful:
An activity that was a success for us was a visit to the cemetery. We went to a small cemetery where Jakob’s paternal great-great grandparents are buried. Jakob was excited to play “find the tombstone.” After I explained some cemetery etiquette, he eagerly went off searching for his ancestor.
Another idea that we really like is a family history activity box. The box holds our art supplies, photos, and ideas for future projects. Jakob is currently fascinated with maps. For our next project we are planning to create a map showing the journey of his immigrant ancestor. We will use stickers to mark the route and a photo of the ancestor’s immigrant ship.
So far, my personal experiences have been with small children but in my research I have also found materials for older children. A good book to help an older child get started with their family history is My Family Tree Workbook: Genealogy for Beginners by Rosemary A. Chorzempa (Dover Publications).
Family history can be a great tool for bringing history alive for children. Linking an historical event with an ancestor changes boring facts into a personal connection to the event.
The best part of sharing family history with children is the special time we spend with them. I hope you can take advantage of the Christmas holidays to pass along some family history to the children in your life.