If you’re a parent, you’re busy. There’s no getting around it, we parents are just plain busy. It doesn’t matter what stage of life your kids are in, our plates are full. So how do we fit family history into our schedules? Does it make the cut?
For the last Family History for Children Blog Link-up, we discussed WHY we do family history with our kids. Check out my post here, and several other posts by other family historian moms and dads here, if you are wondering why exactly it’s important for our kids to learn about their family history.
We are homeschoolers, so we make family history a part of our kids’ home education, but you can take advantage of these tips even if your kids aren’t homeschooled! Homeschoolers or not, we’re all our kids’ teachers! I was amazed at how easy it is to incorporate family history into our day once I started intentionally bringing it into our homeschool. I admit that we’re lucky, because our kids have ten generations of family history in our state, and nearly 150 years in our city. They are absolutely surrounded by family history. Which brings me to the first way we do family history with our kids:
1. Field trips
There are so many places to visit with your kids, especially if you have ancestors or relatives that lived nearby. My great-grandmother was born and grew up in our neighborhood, so I often tell stories about her family as we are driving or walking around near her old school and homes. So, if you have ancestors that lived nearby, where can you go?
- Ancestral homes (whether the house is there or not, visit the neighborhood!)
- Your ancestor’s school
- Your ancestor’s workplace
- Cemeteries where your ancestors are buried
- Local genealogy libraries to dig up records on your ancestors
- Local history museums and living history museums
So if you’re lucky enough to have family history at your fingertips, take a little drive and see what you can find. You’ll be amazed at the insight kids have when they get to experience family history for themselves. Your kids can learn so much from just being in the places where their ancestors lived their lives, and walking in their footsteps.
2. Online research
Just the other day I started a new family tree on Ancestry, and I decided to let my daughter help me. In addition to new genealogy skills, she learned valuable computer skills – she was excited to type in ancestors’ names (and she learned how fluid spelling of names can be), she learned how to navigate a computer program, and she learned more about the structure of a family tree and families themselves. She also helped me look for records (and got pretty excited about Ancestry’s “hints” – just like we all do!), and became skilled at filtering through them to decide which ones fit with a particular ancestor based on dates, locations, and family relationships.
When we finished our task for the day, I couldn’t believe just how many new skills she had acquired by simply filling in a family tree on Ancestry. If you have any family tree computer program, include your kids. It may be slow-going at first, but they’ll catch on quick, and learn quite a bit along the way!
3. Brick walls
Oh, genealogy brick walls. If you’re not familiar with the term, it’s exactly what it sounds like: a brick wall is an ancestor you can’t trace back any further. You can’t find vital information on them or their parents’ names. I have found that having someone else take a look at your brick wall is often helpful. So many times you’ve been so steeped in your research that you can’t see alternative options or different points of view, so a fresh perspective may be the key to solving the mystery. If your kids are old enough, try having them look at your brick walls (at the risk of having it drive them crazy too, I’ll admit).
When your kids take a look at a brick wall ancestor, they learn historical and genealogical analysis and problem-solving skills. They learn to collaborate with you and others who have worked on the problem. They learn to take historical context into account, they learn the intricacies of different records, and not to mention, they learn more about their family and their ancestors while they’re at it. And even if you don’t break through the brick wall together (yet), there’s still a lot of important learning going on, and it may lead the way to a newfound interest. I’d say it’s a win-win.
These are just a few of the ways we can incorporate family history into our kids’ lives – and I didn’t even mention storytelling, but that’s what my entire blog is about! Telling family stories is one perfect way to easily involve your kids in family history – while you’re driving, eating dinner, taking a walk, any time, tell your stories.
And to help you along, I’ve created a workbook just to get kids started in family history: Writing Family History for Kids: A Workbook & Guide. All you need to do is subscribe to our newsletter and you get it free! Woohoo! If you get as excited about family history as I do, you and your family will love the book. Subscribe here, and check out our Activities page for even more.
How do you incorporate family history into your kids’ lives? I'd love to hear. Share in the comments - and don't forget to check out the other posts in this month's blog link up for more tips for busy parents!