Learning about your ancestors doesn’t have to start when you are an adult. So is genealogy for kids? Of course it is. It is a hobby that can be enjoyed by anyone, no matter what age you are.
First of all just what is genealogy?
Before you begin any activity that is discussed in this post you may first want to ask your kids just what is genealogy? And for that matter what is family history? Their response could very well surprise you.
The difference between genealogy and family history!
There is a difference of course between them and I will keep it short and simple. Genealogy is all about names, details and facts about your ancestors. Family history on the other hand is the stories behind them.
However, most people will refer to genealogy as the collection of all this information about our ancestors that includes the details as well as the stories.
For us it’s great when we discover anything about our family tree but it’s the stories that makes it so much enjoyable for our children.
So how you can get your children interested in genealogy?
Well please read on as I will show you.
Family History Stories
I became fascinated with my family history because of my father. When I was younger my brothers and I would sit down in awe while we listened to all of these fantastic stories and anecdotes. It was quite unbelievable just how much my father would recite.
Learning to appreciate my family history!
He would go on for hours telling us about both his father’s and mother’s side of the family. There were so many ancestors to talk about!
As I grew older I never tired of hearing these stories over, and over, and over again. But with increased age I learned how to value them.
I knew that they would need to be recorded before it was too late. These stories had been passed down through the generations. Some of them dated to the 1700s. And through time stories do get forgotten and details get changed.
Tell your children their family history!
I have digressed from what I wanted to say but I did want to tell you how family stories made me appreciate both my ancestry and where I came from.
To help tell the story of your ancestors why not go through old family photographs. Not only can they see who you are talking about but they can then connect the stories to the person.
Doing this makes it so much enjoyable, trust me I know! It gives your child something to hand and look at. And also to relate to.
But you don’t have to stop at photographs. Why not show your children your family’s heirlooms? Tell them the story behind these family treasures and who also who they belonged to.
So you could talk about your grandfather’s war medals for example. Tell them where he was deployed to, what battles he may have been in and maybe what life was like for the family that he had to leave behind.
Besides war medals you may have letters or documents, an old family bible, jewelry, coins, and even furniture as well. If you do have any family heirlooms that have been passed on to you then why not tell your children the story behind them?
Where are your family’s stories?
Now knowing what you can talk about why not make it more fun by exploring your home and finding these stories. Your heirlooms may be up in the attic or down in the basement.
Do you know where your family’s stories are?
Maybe have a look around your home and jot down on some paper everything that you find and can talk about. And then the adventure of family history can begin.
Old Family Recipes
Family history doesn’t just have to be about the stories, photographs and family heirlooms. It can be about other things as well. Do you have old recipe books that you still own? Well then why not get them out and bond with your children through old recipes?
Did you cook with your parents growing up?
You probably did. Chances are that these old family recipes were written in a book, or maybe they were put down on bits of paper. Like stories these recipes could have been passed down through the generations. Or they may be modern and just come from your parents.
Either way, collect what recipes you have and see which ones that you can cook with your children.
You may want to make it more fun for your kids and ask them what they would like to make.
But what if they weren’t written down?
The sad thing about family history as I have mentioned before is that it will get lost in time if it is not recorded. So if the only place where these recipes are kept are in your head then please write them down.
You may though have forgotten some ingredients or measurements. But please don’t let that stop you. It could make the cooking more enjoyable as you try different quantities and ingredients.
You can have your cake and eat it too!
After the meal, (or cake), has been made you can then sit down with your children and bond. Talk not only about whose recipe you cooked but also they enjoyed making the meal as well.
You could even ask them if they would like to try different ingredients as well.
It doesn’t have to end there though. Not only can you collect your old family recipes but new ones as well. Ask your children what meals that they would like to be included in the book.
It is never too young to write your history. Your children have heard stories of their ancestors, but what about their stories? Not only can family history be about the past but the present as well.
How can my children record their personal history?
A journal is a great way for your children to record everything and anything that is important to them right now in their lives. They can write down what school they go to, who their friends are, what activities they like doing and so on. Ask them what their story is.
They don’t have to stop there. To make this activity even more interesting, and rewarding, they could take photos as well. They could then choose their own photo album to put them into.
Another idea is to help them create a scrapbook. These can be very visual. Not only can they include photos but you can ask your children to write a story to go along with each of them.
So not only have you gone through your old family photographs and told a story about your ancestors, but your children can do do the same. Just this time it’s their story!
If you want to help them along!
There are many different kinds of family history book templates that you can purchase. These books make it more easy for you as the pages already include charts, questions that can be asked about your family history, and also sections where you can add newspaper snippets or old family recipes.
So if you haven’t already researched your family tree but are interested in doing so then why not buy a family history book template. Once your book arrives then you can work on your family history together as a family.
Let Them Go Exploring!
Getting to know your family history doesn’t have to mean that you have to stay at home. You could go out of your four walls and take your children to explore their ancestry. By that I mean they could come along with you as you get your ancestors’ records, visit where your ancestors grew up or even the cemetery where they are buried.
These activities though I feel would be best suited to older children. Also once they have heard the stories of their ancestors and that you can see that they have a passion for their family history.
Just like me I became interested in genealogy because of the stories that my father passed down to me. And as I grew older I would learn more and more about my ancestors by visiting where they originally came from and where they worked. And yes I even visited cemeteries to see where they were buried.
My Final Thoughts on Genealogy For Kids!
Genealogy has no age limit. We can all be interested about our ancestors no matter what age we are. We could be in our retirement years, in our 30s or 40s, or even in elementary school.
It just doesn’t matter.
There is a reason why genealogy is the second most popular pastime in the United States, (and maybe the world even). And that it is accessible and enjoyable no matter how old you are.
What more can you do?!
I have discussed various ways that you could get your children involved in family history. There are probably more ways though but these you can use to start them on their own family history journey.
But can you think of any other kinds of activities?
If you can then please tell me by commenting below. I will be very interested to hear how you have got your family to know about their ancestry.
The Genealogy For Kids post mentioned on an episode of Extreme Genes!
Episode 216 – Sunday, November 26, 2017
A brief mention of The Genealogy Guide appeared on this episode in relation regarding this post.
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