Archive for the ‘Youth doing family history’ Category

The Sides We Don’t See (or Commit a Small Act of Family History this Season)

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

The holiday season provides excellent opportunities to commit small acts of family history. With just a little effort, we can learn new things about people in our family trees.

People we know, even family members with whom we’ve lived, have sides we may not see or consider. These are facets of their personalities or experience which enrich our sense of who they are or were, if we can discover them through some act of family history.

Consider, for example, my first grade teacher, Miss Keller. (The name is changed to protect her, in case she’s more innocent than we thought at the time.) Miss Keller was mean. She yelled at us. She punished the whole class for the minor offenses of one or two students, which is as quick a way to pique a child’s sense of injustice as any. She also taught us to count in German.


What’s in a Name?

Thursday, December 12th, 2013
people in the our tree

The people in the our tree

I have been trying to think of how best to get my children excited about genealogy for a while now. I long assumed they were much too young, and I would worry about it when they were older. Teenagers, maybe? I have since realized they are more than ready now.

I first realized it two years ago, when my three year old brought home a family tree he had made in preschool. It started with him and included me, my husband, his brother and “the baby.” At the time, I was pregnant but hadn’t announced it outside the family. The family tree project forced an announcement, since the preschool teacher was also my next-door neighbor.

This week I decided to make another family tree with my boys. To make it more interesting, we would mostly focus on my sons’ namesakes. My older son, now seven, is named after his father and grandfather. My five year old is named for two of his great-grandfathers.

My goal is to help my boys understand why their names are special. I want them to know something about the men they are named after and take a little pride in their names. My older son doesn’t like to be called by his given name. He even gets angry, when we remind him that his real name is Nathan, not Trey. This is a bit of a sore spot for him and his grandfather. Maybe making our tree will help that situation too.

The Ancestor Effect and Other Benefits of Genealogy

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

I have five grandchildren now; the fifth just arrived. They’re a little cuter than yours, and adorable, amazing, and brilliant. I find myself drawn to write stories for them – my stories, my parents’ stories, and stories I recall hearing about generations I never even met. These stories must be preserved, but I’ve never before taken the time to do it.

I’m learning where I came from, and I want my grandchildren to understand where they came from, too. In the process I’m coming to understand something about my grandchildren that I didn’t know when my own children were young. They need to be taught genealogy when they are young, so that it becomes a natural part of their daily experience.

Clare and three more generations

Clockwise from top: My mother, myself, twin granddaughters, and my daughter, their mother.

Some people explore their family history for religious or medical reasons, or simply because they want to understand who they are. But recent research suggests another good reason for doing it – and for starting young. Unfortunately, it’s also a good reason for me to feel a little more guilty for not getting as much done as soon as I might have.

For a decade I’ve practiced as a mental health therapist. This means I need to keep up on the research in my field, which is how I recently discovered an article in the European Journal of Social Psychology about “the ancestor effect.”


Get the Youth Involved in Family History

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

By Whitney Ransom McGowan,, Inc.

Young people are at an excellent age to get involved in family history because they are comfortable with using the Internet and are generally tech savvy. Although family history and genealogy have traditionally been thought of as a favorite pastime or hobby for older folks, more and more young people are joining in. Much of this interest can be attributed to new social-networking tools available through the Internet that draw younger people in by building on their “need” for connection. Also, academia has recognized the growing interest in genealogy by the “younger” generation. Currently there are more than 50 college and university genealogical courses available in the United Kingdom (

Getting youth involved in genealogy does not have to be difficult. Parents can encourage teenagers to record their thoughts and day-to-day activities in a personal journal. Parents can also share their personal experiences and stories, as well as interesting stories about the teenager’s ancestors. Performing genealogy research can also help young people gain a closer relationship with their family members. Through this process they will learn more about themselves as they learn about their ancestors. And because of their technical abilities, teenagers can help other individuals, such as their parents and grandparents, who may not be as skilled with computers.

Here are some questions to help a young person get started. To make things easier, you may just want to email or text this list to them…

* When were your parents born and where?
* Where did your parents grow up?
* When and where were they married?
* What were their parents’ names?
* When did their parents marry and where?
* Are their parents still living? If so, where do they live? If not, where are they buried and when did they pass away (name of cemetery, city, state)?
* Are there any other family members buried there or close by
* Who were your parents’ aunts and uncles?
* Do you parents know when/where their aunts and uncles were born, married, lived, buried?
* Who is your oldest living relative? Make plans to visit this person as soon as possible!

(Questions courtesy:

Here are also a few websites for beginning genealogists (particularly suited to children and teenagers):

* USGenWeb Kidz
* WorldGenWeb For Kids
* Family Tree Kids!
* Genealogical Bingo
* CanadaGenWeb