If you ever come to a family reunion or Sunday dinner at my house you will find a great divide between those members of my family who have caught the metaphorical genealogy bug and those that have not.
My grandmother was part of the generation that worked mostly off the internet. She found records by actually going to the library archives, making phone calls and writing letters. Now that I think about it, I am amazed at how much she was able to uncover without all these online tools. In any case, each summer she would print off her latest biography about one of our ancestors. At the time I was never interested. The books were spiral bound and hardly had any pictures in them which for me spelled utter boredom.
Now the internet, social media, conventions and forums have made it easier to not only save family history data but share it with others. Here are some ways we have found to get your family involved in family history.
Create a Family Tree (Ages 4-10)
A great way to get the really little ones involved is by helping them understand what exactly a family tree is. Grab some construction paper and print of pictures of siblings, parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents so they can cut and glue together a tree. There are some great templates online for this just check out Pinterest.
Where in the World? (Ages 7-18)
This will only work if (1) you know where your family is from or (2) you have a very up-to-date account (mine is on familysearch.com). Kids find maps fascinating and when you can show them not only where they can trace their roots but also stories and customs that their ancestors could have participated in, things get exciting! I recently found RootsMapper a service that connects with your FamilySearch account to plot where your ancestors came from. Show your teenagers this website and see if they can find anything surprising. I was showing this site to one of my relatives the other day and they were completely stunned to see we had ancestors born in Belgium and Germany.
Family Vacations and Road Trips (All Ages)
There are various ways you can do this depending on where you live and how much mobility you have. Summer is right around the corner and I’m sure you have already planned where your vacation stops will be. What if on the way to California you stopped by the house where your grandparents grew up? Or…how cool would it be to see the harbor where so many immigrants landed?! If you are really adventurous, spend time out of the country doing typical touristy things AND gaining valuable genealogical data. Things that you can’t find online, church records, tombstones, etc.
Capture Stories (12 and up)
As a high school student, we traveled to senior citizen housing during the holidays. After we performed our little set of musical numbers, we got the chance to sit and talk with the residents. It was so fun to compare stories with each other after we returned to the high school. One person talked to a war veteran, another friend reminisced about her encounter with Elvis Presley. Think of all the stories within your own family! Come up with some questions to get them started and then – if they’re anything like my family – they’ll talk until they put themselves to sleep. Once you have these stories, WRITE THEM DOWN! Don’t let another generation go by without hearing how they had to sell the family farm, or walked across
Get Your Family Involved in Family History
It doesn’t matter how you do it, the important part is that they catch the genealogy bug. It’s so much more fun playing a game when there are more people on your team. The same thing is true for family history. Genealogy is like a big board game except you get to choose your own adventure and add more pieces every day.
Remember, we love to help you document the interesting stories, fun family vacations and of course family history. Let us know when you are ready to set up your next MyCanvas creation, we would love to help you format your project so it turns out just right.