Kids and Genealogy

Read about being a mother of 12 as our resident 'Supermom' shares her wise parenting advice.

The local middle school that all of my 12 children have attended requires the students to make a presentation on their family histories in the eighth and final year of the school. It's lucky for my kids that mom is into genealogy in a big way and can give them scads of material to use. More than that, my kids tend to catch my excitement for family history as we work together on the project and it gladdens my heart to think that someone might take up my work when I am gone.

There are other benefits to learning about one's family roots. I always had a terrible time learning dry facts and dates in history class. After I began research on my family, all those dates and facts held a personal context for me. World War I was no longer something that happened to someone else. It happened to my family, including my cousin who was conscripted into the Russian army as a young child and never returned to the family village. It was presumed that he was killed in the war. World War I was no longer something in a high school history book; it had affected my family in an intimate way. I would never view history the same way, again. My children, too, found that history class came alive for them, once they knew about family connections to events and dates in history.

Getting Started

If you don't know a thing about the family history, the best way to start is by interviewing the oldest member of your family. Help your child find a way to contact his relative: look up the phone number or mailing address with the aid of an online white pages directory. Guide your child to drawing up a list of questions he might like to ask his relative. If he will be interviewing the relative in person, make sure he has a tape recorder as well as a pad of paper and a pen to record his relative's words for posterity.

Getting Creative

Discuss with your child the best way to capture the family tree as hard copy. If your child is artistic, he might come up with some creative ideas, such as affixing paper leaves with the names of family members to real tree branches and gluing them onto heavy stock. Have his project framed and hang it in place of pride, over the dining room table, or over a sofa.

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