Get Your Kids Involved in Your Family History

by Bob Brooke

Genealogy isn't just for older folks. Through genealogy, kids can gain a better appreciation for their heritage. And while an older person might keep the historic records, family history is just that-a history of the family. So get your kids and grandkids involved.

While you may spend countless hours searching through old records, scanning photographs, and creating your family tree, your kids will find that boring. But they may find researching occupations of their ancestors fun. Children like-indeed, they need-hands on activities. After finding what occupations your ancestors had, determine if there are any places where your children might see those occupations being practiced first hand. If an occupation is still being practiced, take them to see it in action. Visit a steel mill or a coal mine. Spend a few days on a working farm-many farms now offer bed and breakfast-style accommodations for families.

If an occupation is long gone, read about it in books or on the Internet, then take your children to museums showcasing that occupation. Perhaps they can create a scrapbook about their ancestor with that occupation to share in school in the Fall.

For those ancestors involved in the military, your children can learn about specific branches of the service or a particular battle. And that doesn't mean just the Revolutionary War. Possibly you fought in the Pacific in World War II. There's an excellent museum in Fredricksburg, Texas, devoted to the war in the Pacific Theater. They can follow you as you reminisce about the battles you fought. It will put them right there. Boys, in particular, will love the full size Japanese submarine and the war guns and planes on display. You can also take tours of certain military bases. Contact your representative in Congress.

Perhaps your ancestor was a woman who raised ten kids and took care of the house in the late 19th century. Show your children what that was like by visiting a living history historic site and later making some of her recipes together.

Children tend to be more enthusiastic about projects and trips when they're involved in the planning process. Discuss the types of visits or indoor activities that you have in mind. See which ones catch their interest, but don't let them totally determine what you should do. Remember, children appreciate a guiding hand, although they may not realize it at the time. Have them look for information online, for example. They may even get excited about an activity once they've seen a Web site about it.

Also, children of different ages like to do different things. If your children vary widely in age, you must take that into consideration so that no one gets bored. Keep in mind your child's attention level. One child may be able to sit and work quietly for an hour or more while another seeks out active play.

Do any interesting relatives live near you? Plan a visit and have your children interview that person. Let them develop a list of questions based on what you know about them. They can either write down their answers or tape-record them.

A follow-up activity to visits to relatives would be to publish a family newsletter. Besides writing up the interviews with older relatives, they can prepare a calendar of family events and even write stories about their visits to historic sites and the like.

Finally, take a family history vacation. Use the family history information that you and your children have gathered to plan an interesting vacation. Have your children plot the places their ancestors lived on a map. They can then research either online or at the library events and locations related to their family history. By visiting those ancestral places, you will be helping them develop a sense of family history. Help them collect present-day postcards of the places you visit and compare them with those collected by relatives long ago. Lastly, have them create a scrapbook of their vacation to share with other family members

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