The question of getting kids involved in genealogy has dogged me for the pas few years. So much so, that every once in a while I work on a genealogy curriculum for schools. I made my own family group sheets, individual cards, pedigree charts and for schools I made an individual worksheet with a few questions for the students to work on. My intent was as the children go through school they build on their genealogies and learn how to research for future science projects, English papers, and social studies projects. Now let the brainstorming begin!
Getting kids into genealogy is hard and going to take time, so you might want to start the process before they are even born! If you have old family photos or pictures, especially those that have grandparents, great-great parents and beyond, I would have a family photo wall in your house! My cousin Keith has a wall like this, with copies of old family photos and people ask about it and he tells them that the people in the photos are grandparents, aunts, and uncles and the like. Having this wall gets the kids familiar with their ancestors from the time their babies.
When, kids are really little, do not get too hung up on explaining your genealogy going back to Adam and Eve. Start small. Start with yourself, your siblings, and your grandparents. If your child does something that reminds of you of a story tell your child the story. If you have family time, use that time to share stories about the family or share stories at bedtime.
A second suggestion with photos is on a computer, you can take individual ancestors’ or relative’s pictures put them into paint or any photo program and type their names-print off. Get a poster board and draw a tree (similar to a pedigree chart) on it. Put Velcro on the individual pictures and the poster board. During story time, bring out the board and have the child put the photo on the poster and talk about the individual, tell stories or memories about that particular person.
You can also take your children places where their ancestors lived and worked. Sometimes, you might be able to show the kids inside the house where their grandpa grew up in, be sure to ask. You can also take them to the cemetery (be sure to teach them proper cemetery etiquette) and show them where their ancestors are buried. Be sure to bring paper and crayons, so they can make etchings of the headstones.
My Idea for Incorporating Genealogy into School Curriculum
Okay, every once in a while I work on getting some sort of genealogy packet together to bring into the schools. I was a history major in college and doing genealogy while working towards that goal made history even easier. I had stories of my ancestors and corresponded to events in history-Oscar Coen was shot down over France and was missing for several months. Uncle Charles Cutter was an engineer on Underground Railroad. There were only two Cutters from Pelham, New Hampshire who fought in the American Revolution. If you are descended from royalty, you might find yourself muttering “Grandpa” or “Grandma” under your breath, whenever the teacher mentions your blue blooded relations!
When a child is in first grade, you get the basic questions, who are your grandparents, who are your parents, and where are your origins? You don’t go any further in family explorations. Well, I want to take it further and teach children research skills that they can take into college and have their own genealogies! Now this is a rough outline of what I had in mind, but I hope there are some good ideas in it. My intent is that when they start, students will have a folder that they will keep throughout their school career and that by the time they enter high school they will know how to research and an actual genealogy binder with all their information in a neat presentation.
First and Second Grade: Getting a family tree established with self, siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, granduncles and grandaunts, and gathering initial photos of relations and short stories and getting country of origins for their families as well.
Third and fourth grade: Basic research skills, getting dates and getting great grandparents and their siblings, perhaps a field trip to a local history room or a cemetery is in order. In third grade, they will start keeping a genealogy journal and this is the opportunity for students to interview grandparents and parents about their memories. They record what they interview in their journals.
Fifth and Sixth Grade: More Research skills including basic citation. During this period we’re going beyond the four initial generations, I would put the number to at least seven generations, and we’re actually doing an initial set up for their genealogy book, staring with their parents doing an initial write up with photo. Part of their English and Writing classes, students will be required do to a biographical piece and a fictional piece about an ancestor of their choice.
Seventh and Eight Grade: Finalize the genealogy books with photos, and stories. Teaching the students more citation-the different formats MLA, Chicago and APA and giving them research tips for the future if and when they want to go beyond their initial school project. If by any chance, need to know some family facts for any class in high school, they’ll have handy their project for that assignment. Actually this happened to my cousin and who do you think he called?
That my fellow researchers, is how I would incorporate genealogy into a school curriculum. That concludes my blog on getting kids into genealogy. If there are any additional ideas, fell free to leave your comments below! I hope I had a few good ideas on how to get kids into genealogy. Welp, folks until next time!
This blog was originally published on my now abandoned genealogy blog.
I'm a big believer in tying history and genealogy together. Who Do You Think You are is a show where celebrities explore their family histories. There are several versions of this series including Australian, UK, France and United States versions. The Australian version of the show, when they feature an aboriginal celebrity will put a warning about photos before they show the series. It is interesting to see the different celebrity stories. They discover secrets and solve mysteries in their family.
It would be an excellent show to introduce students to how people do research and genealogy research in particular. The celebrity uses both primary and secondary sources to further their research as well as family photos and in person interviews.
These are general questions that can be used with any episode of Who Do You Think You Are? A teacher can pick a celebrity whose family stories relate to the topic they are talking about in a history class or just use it as a filler for a substitute teacher.
However, if there are any specific celebrities you would want to show in class I would recommend:
Jerry Springer: Holocaust and World War II - His parents got out of Germany in time, leaving behind their mothers. In this episode, Jerry learns the fate of his grandmothers in the Holocaust and at the end meets a new cousin whose father managed to escape in the Kindertransports to Israel. I know Jerry Springer is controversial but you really feel for the guy watching this story unfold. He would be the number one celebrity Who Do You Think You Are participant I would show in class.
John Stamos: There wasn't a specific theme for this episode, it was about one woman's determination to bring the murderer of her husband to justice. Stamos meets a cousin in Greece and it was interesting to see a different side of Stamos. This episode features heavily features in person interviews and reliance on official documents.
Rob Rinder: Holocaust and PTSD - Rob Rinder is the English equivalent of Judge Judy and dare I say more biting then her. He explores how his grandfather made his way to England after surviving the Holocaust as well as his beloved grandmother's story.
Sir Patrick Stewart: Domestic Violence, Mental Health, PTSD, World War II - Stewart explores the connection to his father's service during the war to growing up in a domestic violence situation.
Charles Dance: Immigration - Dance never knew his father and he explores his father's story, discovering a half sister he never knew he had. This would be the number 2 celebrity I would recommend, just as a fun fill in for a class.
Additional recommendations: Lisa Kudrow, Susan Sarandon, Len Goodman, Rita Wilson
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I'm a librarian with an active imagination who likes to create. Genealogist and Researcher.
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The purpose of this blog is to share information on what can be used in a classroom, private school or home school setting as well as serve as a portfolio of my personal and professional work.