Fun Genealogy for Kids Helpful Hints

Getting Kids Involved in Genealogy: Part 2

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Written by Jayne McGarvey

More thoughts from Jayne about how to encourage kids to be involved in genealogy and family history. If you missed Jayne’s first post about this topic, you can read it here.

Putting our “little darlings in control” … Of a camera or video that is.

Most kids now days can run rings around the average adult when it comes to technology. It used to be a standing joke – if you need your video recorder reprogrammed look for the nearest 6 year old!  So many of the kids have iPads, and mobile phones with video capability, etc.

Instead of trying to arrange a play date, keeping them occupied with something silent, or worse, paying for a babysitter, while you interview family or neighbours, put the kids in charge of the videoing – as camera man (or woman), interviewer, producer, editor, sound assistant – have you enough kids to go round or do you need to borrow a few? While you might want to help them with the first initial questions, there are times when the kids have a way of asking, and getting answers to questions the average adult would hesitate to ask.

What’s the meaning of your Name‬?
Names and their meanings and origins and the various nicknames associated with them can be of great interest to some ‎kids‬. Involve the children themselves by getting them to find out as much as possible about their forename(s) and surname at the library, on Google, or on sites like www.irishfamilynames.ie.

Ask Them to Help You

Our teens have an affinity with technology that most of us can only dream about. If you have a bunch of old photographs that are of poor quality or full of scratches or even torn, then colour scan them, create a copy and give your teen the copy to work on.

Just see what they can do to restore, improve the tonal quality and contrast, or even repair torn parts of your picture.

(But just in case it’s just you – here is a great tip sheet from Kodak on the steps to take. Alternatively there are lots of free apps which you can download that are simple to use and will improve the basics of contrast, and straighten or crop away damaged edges.)

Try introducing them to digi-scrapping.  Use digitised ancestor photos to make digital scrapbook collages about individual ancestors.  It is a wonderful visual method of telling the family history and stories. What’s even better is this activity creates no mess, no glue is required, and files can either be shared with friends and family digitally or printed onto individual pages or in a book format.

Getting out and about

Some children will hear the words genealogy‬ or family history and automatically assume “BORING,” but many will love to get out and about and visit actual places. Take a trip, pack up a picnic, or schedule a couple of days away in a tent, caravan, hostel or hotel and head off to where some of your ancestors and their family used to live. Do a little research beforehand to find out what else is in the area, and mix up family history with activities that you know the kids will enjoy. Arrange your route to an activity centre via the house or homestead of your ancestors. Get the kids to take some photos for you.

If you are visiting a museum check out beforehand which items are on display that would have been a daily part of your ancestors’ lives. Many museums have “Workshop” days or areas where it is possible to have a go using replica items such as weaving looms and spinning wheels. Watch out for these on the internet before you travel.
If your visit is to a relative or family friend who has kept family photos, furniture, books or tools, think about the family stories that your or your hosts can tell about the items or photos. If it is something that the kids can interact with, like old joinery tools, is it possible for them to have a piece of wood to drill into or cut to find out what it would have been like for their ancestor to have used the items?

It may be useful to check with your host before you travel if they have age appropriate items that will interest the children, won’t be in danger of being damaged, and may even give you and your host some adult chat time as a bonus.

There is probably not an option here that will work for all children, but keep on trying different options, try a twist, make up your own approach, allow your approach to be as flexible as your child or grandchild and you could end up with an eager assistant and someone or three in line as the family historian for the next generation.


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

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