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10 Slick Tips for Involving Kids in Family History
By Ancestry.com 20 April 2010


Everyone loves a good story – and that goes double for kids. Fortunately family history is full of fascinating stories, particularly if you know how to tell them. Try the following tips for making family history interesting to historians of all ages:

  1. Speak to your audience. Mention finding a 110-year-old passenger list with a bunch of names and dates on it and the kids may roll their eyes and run off. But tell those same kids the story about how that same ancestor spent three weeks crammed into the hull of a ship fending off sea-sickness and storms and you could find yourself with an audience begging to see that same list.

  2. Play up the similarities. A 10-year-old whose favorite pastime is building model tall ships may be thrilled to discover a great-great-great-uncle who was a sailor on one during the late 19th century. The only redhead in the family will love learning about the great-grandmother whose auburn locks she inherited.

  3. Demonstrate the differences. Have a soccer player in the house? Tell him or her how Granddad used to play kick the can – and why he wasn’t playing games with brand new, store-bought toys instead.

  4. Illustrate your stories. Every story and every person seems more real with images. Show family photos and relay stories of the people in each. Don’t have a family photo? Find historic images from the time period in question and explain how your ancestor was affected.

  5. Get cooking. Can’t convince the kids to be interested in their Italian roots? A hearty serving of homemade pasta and sauce – complete with details about how the recipe was passed down through generations – may do the trick.

  6. Know what they’re learning. Ask questions about what they’re discussing in school. Captain Cook? Ned Kelly? Don Bradman? Use events being covered in schools as an open invitation to start a discussion about your family’s personal side of that same historic moment.

  7. Accept limitations. Some children are born family historians. Others take a little more coaxing. Be patient, persistent, and most of all, make sure the stories are fascinating.

  8. Be excited. Family history isn’t a contact sport but it can always use a good cheerleader. If you’re excited about the stories you relate to the children, they’ll be excited, too.

  9. Get creative. Try projects, like creating, coloring or decorating a family tree. Create your own scavenger hunt, in which members of a web-savvy younger generation search for specific people (family or historic figures) in the records at Ancestry.com.au. Or write up a list of questions for each one to ask at the next family reunion – then offer a prize for the child who finishes first or finds the best answers.

  10. Make movies. Set children loose with video recorders (or audio recorders) and have them create documentaries about their own family. They’ll focus on subjects that interest them and learn more about their personal history while doing so. And you get a lasting reminder of how the family is seen through a child’s eyes.

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