The In-Depth Genealogist would like to thank Debbie of Mascot Manor for her guest post today. Debbie shares her experiences with teaching genealogy to kids. We hope that it will give you encouragement along your own journey of sharing with the next generation!
During the last school year, I ran a 4-H family history project. My own homeschooled children, as well as three others, were in the project and it was my goal to make them jump up and down for family history. In my head, as I planned the classes, I would have five children running out to interview grandparents, fill in charts and graphs of their family history, and fall in love with the local genealogy library, asking to visit there every single free moment!
Instead, I had five children who did what was asked of them. With sighs.
My disappointment was immense, especially in my own children who were supposed to be begging me to share everything I know about our ancestors with them. I tried at each of the six classes to get them pulled in. The moms were right there with me, bringing treasures and charts and family bibles. We sit for hours after class being excited together. But the kids? They showed up… and sometimes would surprise me. One boy fell in love with the California Genealogical Society and Library in Oakland, California after our field trip there. He liked the old books.
It wasn’t until the class was over and that I realized children are going to only absorb a little at a time. I hear things like my daughter correcting my son. “No, Will. Signa was our GREAT grandma, Momma’s grandma. When it goes back, they are ‘greats’ and get numbers.” Or my son telling his friend that, “Pierre, is pronounced ‘Pier’ since he was born in South Dakota and that’s the capitol building.”
So despite their non-excitement, they got something from the class. One student sent me a YouTube video where he showed on a map where his ancestors came from. One did a PowerPoint presentation for us of the findings from his family. My son, William, did a presentation of some of the other Williams in our family history and my daughter did a movie about the great grandmother she was named for.
If someone were to ask me my advice about teaching family history to children, I would say to not be like me. Don’t expect too much. Make it fun, but don’t get discouraged. Things sink in when no one is paying attention. Keep planting the tiny nuggets of history and they may grow and be referenced later in life for them.