Genealogy Wise

The Genealogy & Family History Social Network

Getting Children or Grandchildren Interested in Genealogy

When we are passionate about genealogy, it's only natural to want to pass that interest on to our children and grandchildren. I've encouraged my grandchildren and exposeed them to genealogy in fun ways that might interest other genealogists. Every summer my two oldest grandchildren spend a week with us and during that time here are some of the activities we've done with them.

I made Ancestor Cards for my grandchildren. Each card (the size of a baseball card) had an ancestor photo if one was available, their relationship to my grandchildren, and a bio of the person on the back. We played many card games with the card. The children invented their own games - one was like that age old favourite "WAR" but based on who had the oldest ancestor (meaning the one born the earliest). Each year I add a few more cards to the Ancestor deck!

Each year we have a Cemetery Hunt. The children love this activity and happily spend hours in local cemeteries hunting for specific gravestones. I try to choose cemeteries with an ancestor but if that isn't possible I just choose any old and interesting tombstone. The idea is to get the children comfortable in a cemetery, and get them interested in the people buried there. We talk about the stones, calculate ages at death (a great Math activity!) and about respect for the dead.

A nice activity for a rainy day is a Genealogy Crossword Puzzle or Word Hunt. I created some for the grandchildren and there are sites online which have templates you can use.

This year I have two activities in mind - a Genealogy Remembrance Garden and a Genealogy Time Capsule My grandchildren are coming in August this year so I have already got them thinking about what they will put in their Genealogy Time Capsule. A family tree, photos, a drawing they made, an old toy with a note explaining who it belonged to and what it meant to them, a dated letter they write explaining who they are and why they are making the time capsule - there's no limit to what their imaginations might dream up to go into these capsules! When they are with us, we'll create the time capsules and bury or hide them for the future.

I also involve the grandchildren by looking at old photos and talking about the ancestor in the picture. I tell stories of each person (if I know something about them!) and I show my grandchildren any treasured items I have that belonged to that ancestor in the photo. The first thing they say when the get in the car to come home with us is "Tell us stories of our ancestors, Gramma!". The car ride to bring them from their home to ours is 3 hours long, and each time I finish one story, they request another. For 3 hours I get to talk about ancestors - what a treat for me!

It is to the point where they now ask for specific stories - "Tell us about our ancestor who walked Niagara Falls on a tightrope!" "Tell us about great great great gramma Sarah who died on the ship going to Australia and her kids got left there". It's amazing what they remember, and of course I tried to make the stories as interesting and exciting as possible when they were younger.

Now we have a very good candidate to take up the torch after I am gone - my oldest grandson seems the most interested and never stops asking questions about the family and genealogy. So you can have fun with your children or grandchildren while keeping an eye out for the one who might carry on your work. Encourage them and enjoy your time with them.

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Comment by Terri O'Connell on July 25, 2009 at 5:43am
Lorine, I love your ideas about getting your grandchildren interested. When I started my research, I printed a family tree for my niece who had just graduated HS. She loved it. This year, she has graduated from college and is now researching her husbands family. BTW, she is on GenWise as well. I love that I have helped her love something that is so important to me.

I also take my daughters to the cemetery to help me search. The biggest conversation is always the age someone was at death, especially the children and babies.
Comment by Heidi Marie Clark on July 13, 2009 at 2:53pm
I love the ancestory cards that you made for your grandchildren. It must be so fun to share this love with the future generations. Hopefully it sticks with them throughout their lives and they will start teaching others of their love for geneology.
Comment by Becky Jamison on July 13, 2009 at 1:12pm
Wonderful ideas, Lorine! My husband & I printed a pedigree chart for our granddaughters and reviewed it with them as we drove to nearby Highland Games. We showed them how they connected to Scottish ancestors, then when we were there, let them inquire about the clans, tartans, etc. It was a great learning experience and we had so much fun. We've walked through cemeteries too, like you have, commenting on children's deaths, ages, pictures etc. Actual experiences like that and the ones you suggest really make the family history come alive for the little ones. Thanks so much for your good ideas!
Comment by Jennifer Eklund, PLCGS on July 13, 2009 at 9:10am
Hi Lorine. Great blog! Thank you for sharing your ideas with us. I just signed on to write a couple blogs, one being about how my son showed interest in genealogy yesterday. I love the idea of a garden to remember family.
Comment by Daniel Horowitz on July 13, 2009 at 8:53am
Hi Lorine,

We will be talking about this subject at the "IAJGS MANAGEMENT SEMINAR: Teaching Genealogy from Children to Elders", on the 29th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy to be held August 2-7 2009 at the Sheraton Philadelphia Center City Hotel.

When children study genealogy and family history there is a lot more learning going on than finding ancestors. Daniel Horowitz has more than 10 years of experience teaching genealogy to children with his project "Searching for My Roots", with the goal of motivating students to investigate their family's past by combining general subjects and interesting activities.

Daniel has invited Gayle Schissel Riley and Rhoda Miller, who also have experience in different areas of teaching genealogy to participate in this presentation with him. All three will share their knowledge, strategies and methodologies to help individuals and organizations provide excellent learning experience for all pupils/participants no matter their age. This is an exciting presentation for teachers, lecturers and anyone interested in getting people of all ages involved in searching for their roots.

This session for everyone -- not just IAJGS member Societies and their officers
You and any other person interested are more than welcome.


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