Genealogy research is a fun activity that can bring families closer together. It’s a good idea to start early, as young as 3 to 4 years old, when a child is most receptive to new (and fun) ideas. Keep the focus on fun and save the searches of birth, marriage, death, and immigration records for when your children are older and have developed a sense of history.
First Steps For Getting Kids Into Genealogy
Even at a very young age, you can involve a child in genealogy. Below are a few suggestions for getting started:
- Begin by showing the child pictures of relatives and their lives. Maybe you have a picture of a house of a great-grandfather’s house or a photo of a famous relative. If there are any funny stories to tell, all the better.
- Take the child to family reunions so they get a better sense of the number of generations in a family.
- Let them talk (with supervision) to elderly relatives about how the relatives’ lives are different today from when they were younger. Your children might be amazed that there was ever a world without smartphones and computers.
- Cook food from family recipes. Make a depression-era recipe from a great-grandmother and ask your family to dress up in Depression-era costumes.
- Find a colorful template for a family tree that allows you to display photographs. Or better yet, ask the child to draw or paint a tree. Start with pictures of your immediate family, then add pictures of grandmothers and grandfathers. Once your child has drawn all of your close relatives, suggest that he or she draw pictures of men and women in period costumes. If your child doesn’t enjoy drawing, suggest finding pictures in magazines or the Internet that show people in clothing from various eras. Place drawings or photographs on the family tree with any family names and dates discovered.
Family Vacation Time
Plan a combination vacation/research trip. Trips to Williamsburg or Boston can bring Colonial times to life and tie in with family research. Children can get a real sense of what life was like. If there are Civil War relatives in your ancestry, take your children to reenactments so they can see the clothes and experience the action. If there are World War I or World War II veterans in the family tree, take your children to museums and let them clamber through a ship or plane on display.
Giving a young child a sense of family and history will lay the foundation for a lifelong interest in genealogy. Keep it fun, keep it personal and fit it into family life and travel.