Fun Helpful Hints

Getting the Kids Involved in Genealogy

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Written by Jayne McGarvey

This is the first in a series of two posts with ideas for helping children and youth to become interested in family discover.

Sharing our love of genealogy or family history with our children‬ or grandchildren is one of the best ways of ensuring that we leave a legacy that will be continued long after we have gone and that all our hard work will not be “thrown in the bin” with a “who on earth would want all that old rubbish?”

While we may not get the kids‬, especially teens, to spend a sunny afternoon in some “dull” records repository, there are other ways of beginning to capture their interest:

“It’s never too early to start”

If you are handy with a needle or sewing machine make a family quilt. Use picture transfer paper to add pictures of the important people in your child’s life such as parents and grandparents. Start your quilt as a cot blanket or floor throw and add to it over the years with scraps that are personal to your child – a drawing they have done with fabric paint, part of an old dress or pair of trousers, more pictures of aunts, uncles, siblings, cousins and great grandparents. As they grow involve you child in choosing whose picture gets added next. You can add pictures of your child’s favourite places or homes you have lived in.

Try making a “family tree” from wooden railway tracks to place on the playroom or bedroom wall.  Add pictures, or get your child to “earn” ancestor badges to pin to the tree for accomplished duties with an award or treat for completing each family unit.

Photo Fun
Most kids love photos, especially of people “in funny clothes” and old school pictures.  Try starting with pictures of yourself and family members that the kids know. Seeing pictures of the adults in their lives as children is a great way of capturing their imagination. Pictures of past homes, even if it is a past home where the kids themselves lived can spark conversations of “do you remember”. Encourage them to ask questions about what it was like when you were a child — about your hobbies, where you lived, and who your friends were. With smaller children the photos don’t even have to be very old, a decade is a long time to a small child.

Turn Family History into a Game

Do you remember the fun you had as a kid playing card games like Snap? Make your own set of Snap Cards using pictures of your ancestors and their families. To keep the game fresh as the kids grow you can add pictures of houses and places. Add a twist, can you make snap from the same ancestor several years or even decades apart?

Linking in to what the ‎kids‬ are studying at school 
Lots of the school subjects have links to genealogy. By linking the learning and projects they are doing in subjects like Geography, History, Science and Religious Education with examples of what was happening in the lives of your ancestors’ families, you can help them relate to these subjects.

Use examples of how world and local events would have directly or indirectly made a difference in their lives or where they lived. Big events like World Wars are obvious, but even simple local changes like transport, electricity, the change of the name of the street or county boundary, new industries, technologies change, and working practices may be interesting.

Even casual comments such as, “I remember my granddad telling me that when the bus started it took him half an hour less to get to work each day,” dropped into a conversation about the history of homework can spark the interest to ask a few more questions.

If you can get them hooked, try suggesting that they make a timeline that relates to what they are studying at school and whose life that would have impacted.

There are many other ideas that will be helpful. See the continuation of this post for more ideas!


Want help with your research? Contact helpers like Jayne or post a request to our community of experts today!

Photo at top copoyright by DK, used under Creative Commons License

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