Make a Family Tree
Fun & Easy Family Projects
Family History in the Classroom
A Family Mobile
Veritas Prep (Suggested by the Genealogy Club of the Library at Charlotte, Tennessee)
Links to Other Kid Sites
Family Tree Crafts
Make a child's family tree from a small tree branch and construction paper.
You can acquaint your child with their ancestry by making this simple and pretty family tree.
|Find a twig with many branches.
Put a lump of clay in the bottom of a paper or styrofoam cup. Insert the twig securely so that it remains upright.
|Cut out big leaves from the green construction paper.
Each leaf will represent a person in the child's family and should be big enough to write
that person's name on the leaf. Cut enough leaves for each of the child's siblings,
parents, and grandparents (or more!).
Write the name of each person on their leaf. You might want to include the relative's relationship to the child, like "Grandma Joan Smith." Punch a hole on the end of each leaf.
|Tie the leaves to the tree. The child's generation
goes at the top of the tree, the parents at the second level, and the grandparents at the
For an alternative project, use photos, and paste them on the leaves. Or use cut-outs of leaves, fruit (like apples), and/or flowers to represent the people.
Often it's the little things that we remember most...
After I grew older I would play along with him for my younger brother and sister. Yes, it was silly. But it sure was fun. I'll do the same thing to my children the first chance that I get. These are some of the "traditions" in my family. They are simple but truly treasured memories for me.
But, it doesn't have to be a holiday to make a family tradition. What are your habits, hobbies and interests? Maybe you like to grow tomatos in your garden. You might make the traditional "Family Salsa" with your children or spouse. Be sure to tell them that it's an "official" tradition.
Think of any activity, any season, or anything that is special to you and yours that you really enjoy. Make it a tradition. Do it each year and enjoy the time spent with your family.
What you do may be passed down for many generations to come!
If your family wants to send small gifts and tokens of love to distant relatives you can make this a home project and it will be great! But, it is really touching to visit with your loved ones when you "brighten" their day. Especially for younger children.
Pick a day and time when you know that most of your loved ones will be home. You might want to call first and explain that you will be stopping by for a very quick visit. Just give it to them on the doorstep if you want. The key is to visit as many as possible. If you have someone to visit for longer than a few minutes, you put them on the end of the list.
Ideas that are fun and Family History oriented:
Celebrate an ancestor's birthday: Learn all that you can about your ancestor and what life was like during the period of their life and share it with your children while you celebrate.
Find a map of the world: Mark each place that you know that your ancestors once lived. This would work well on a map of the United States as well.
Go to the local library: Ask the children's librarian to help you find information on toys and games that children played in America, or in a country from which your ancestor's immigrated from, 100 years ago.
Teach your children how to cook a dish that you may have learned from your parents or grand parents. Let the little ones help too. Tell them what things were like around the time that you learned how to make it.
|by Maureen Taylor|
Mention "genealogy" and "schools" in the same sentence and you will hear a wide range of opinions on the topic from parents, teachers and students. The basic worksheets and trees used in genealogical research are difficult to use in most assignments since families are no longer strictly defined as a two-parent household and a school's population can include single parents, adoptive families and same-sex households. Children with families that defy the traditional design of a family tree and even newer immigrants can have difficulty completing a narrowly-defined assignment. This presents a challenge to educators trying to incorporate genealogy into the curriculum. However, since schoolwork is intended to teach students skills, not become professional genealogists, teachers need to be aware of that there are still a lot of ways to expose students to genealogy, no matter what their family backgrounds.
For the best success with classroom genealogy projects, teachers should offer assignments with the qualities listed below.
Not all students may be able to complete the assignment as originally presented. The student and the parents will remember your sensitivity in allowing potentially upsetting homework to be modified for the comfort level of the child. For instance, adoptees and children from one parent households may not be comfortable working on a family pedigree chart. Try to use alternative ways to record family information such as an oral history project.
This is usually built into all classroom assignments, but it can be difficult for younger students to understand why they need to obtain family history information. The National Endowment for the Humanities Web site, My History is America's History, includes a set of sample lesson plans for teachers.
Why Use Genealogy in the Classroom?
Why should the classroom include genealogy at all? Because it is a great and engaging learning tool. Here are a few of the things that genealogy teaches in a classroom setting.
Similarities and Differences
An assignment for older children that allows them to investigate their own ethnic and cultural heritage and share it with others in the classroom introduces the concept of immigration and assimilation. Let students express their heritage by creating a banquet of foods from recipes traditionally served at home or reflective of their cultural identity. Yes, there will be brownies and cookies, but also other interesting dishes. It can make for an educational event because many children are unaware of how mealtimes at their friends' houses differ. If food is impractical and the student population speaks a variety of languages, an alternative is to create a chart of common words or names in different languages. The examples can include different alphabets, spellings and styles of handwriting.
While students are learning about themselves, their families and their communities, they may need to verify some of the facts in their projects. Unbeknownst to them, they are learning how to develop reference skills by using libraries, reference books and people as resources. They are learning how to find the information they need to finish their assignment.
Students with Internet access can use the vast genealogical resources available online as reference tools. These Web-based databases and research guides can help them locate material on individuals or guides to where that data can be found. Schools wired for the Internet can use family history and local history as a way to teach students to use search engines, judge the quality of content, and create a web page. Assignments can include a component in which students are required to compare what they find online with what is available in traditional print resources.
A key skill learned by working on a family history project is organization. Developing a research plan to find information is an important component of any project. Students learn to progress through a set of steps to locate and analyze data. Defining the scope of the project, creating a outline of resources, establishing a realistic timetable for completion and then assembling the final product requires a student to develop organizational skills they will use throughout their lifetimes. In addition, students that have a genealogical software package can use it to organize their work.
How to Integrate Genealogy into the Classroom
So what can a teacher do to integrate genealogy into the classroom? There are many different opportunities. Take a look at some of the techniques and tools genealogists use to research families and see how they can be used for teaching.
Every family has an oral tradition that includes adventures, stories about places lived and interesting family members. Children, as natural storytellers, listen carefully to these tales passed on from generation to generation. By interviewing family members about their lives they learn a set of skills, including creating a list of questions, planning a project and transcribing what has been said. This can be done with members of their own families or residents of an elderly apartment house through an intergenerational program. Younger students will be incredulous to learn that the modern conveniences they take for granted didn't exist during the childhoods of the people they are interviewing.
Photographs, documents and artifacts often provide clues to family history. Ask students to research the history of one or two significant items in their homes or owned by relatives that have a prominent place in a their genealogy. It could be their grandfather's passport, a wedding photograph or even a piece of furniture. The oral traditions surrounding artifacts can add data to a family history. Let the students research how and when particular articles were used to give them a sense of their family's place in social history.
Calendars and Timelines
Have students create an individual timeline adding historical context to their lives by finding national and local events that occurred at key points in their lives. They can document the points on the timeline by using materials created in their lifetimes. Timelines can lead to a discussion of calendar changes (Gregorian to Julian) and the different types of devices used to keep track of time around the world. They can use the timelines to write a personal memoir recounting the important points in their lives or focus on a family member and write a biographical account of their life. If a personal timeline is uncomfortable, timelines for relatives, famous persons or buildings or places are alternative projects.
An exploration of the origin of student's first and last names can be fascinating homework. Ask students to find out the story behind their name including who named them and whether it has significance within the family. Students may find that they are named for a relative, or that their first or last name was created especially for them.
Social historians, public historians and genealogists understand that the lives of individuals become part of local history. Family history introduces students to a larger historical context. An alternative to researching their own families is to encourage students to research a local historical figure or a name they find in a city directory. Students can work as a team to research their school or even a house in the neighborhood. The Lower East Side Tenement Museum in New York City researched the families that lived there at various points in history. It is an example of the changing history of a neighborhood.
Immigration and Assimilation
For older students, genealogy and family history offers a personal way to view the processes of immigration and assimilation. Again, students can use their own families, or using passenger lists, census documents, city directories and other resources to trace the way individuals found their place in America. The Chicago Historical Society added information to their Web site on the diverse populations that settled the city. Students can formulate similar material for their locale.
This is only an introduction to the many ways that genealogy can be incorporated into a classroom setting. Family history is not restricted to subjects that depend on written forms of expression. Students with artistic inclinations can use photographs, needlework, paint and dioramas to help others understand their family history. Musically talented individuals can play pieces from their ancestor's eras while other students can prepare time capsules and even create tours of landmarks important to their genealogy. Teachers who creatively approach the topic encourage their students to expand their base of knowledge about themselves and the world around them.
|About the Author
Maureen A. Taylor, Owner and Principal of Ancestral Connections, combines her background in history, genealogy, photography and library science to assist individuals and institutions with research and project management. She is the author of several genealogical books and articles including the recent Uncovering Your Ancestry through Family Photographs (Betterway, 2000) and a guide to family history for kids, Through the Eyes of Your Ancestors (Houghton Mifflin, 1999). Her columns on genealogy appear in The Computer Genealogist and in New England Ancestors. She is the project manager for www.BostonFamilyHistory.com, a site that lets visitors plan a genealogical research trip to the Boston area.
A Family Mobile
A traditional family tree, with its maze of branches and leaves, is not an easy concept for kids to grasp. This whimsical mobile, which looks wonderful suspended above a child's bed, puts basic lineage into perspective. Your child's portrait is at the top, supporting three generations: you, his grandparents and his great-grandparents. It's exciting for him to look up and see that because Great-Grandmother met Great-Grandfather at a church social in 1903, he is here today! To make the mobile, you need to find old family photographs and simple materials, then do a balancing act.
1. Gather information for each photograph, such as full name, nickname, birth date, and, if appropriate, date of death.
2. At a copy shop, resize the photos so that they fit in a 2 1/2- by 3 1/2-inch area (try to make each head about 2 1/2 inches tall.) Use a color copier or a black and white one.
3. Glue colored paper on one side of the cardboard pieces, seven with one color and seven with the other (to represent both sides of the family tree). For the last piece of cardboard--your child's--make one side one color and the other the second color. For variety, cut some of the pieces into ovals and polygons.
4. Trim the photos 1/4 inch smaller than the colored paper. Center and glue the photos to the colored side of the cardboard.
5. Write the personal information on the back of each photo card using the assigned color.
6. Punch a small hole in the top center of each photo. Make a similar hole in the bottom center of all the pieces except the great-grandparents'.
7. Attach the fishing line to each one of the holes. Mark the line 2 inches above the tie. This will later help you create equal distances for the hanging photos.
8. Paint the dowels, if desired.
9. Notch the dowels with scissors 1/2 inch in from the ends. As you gently cut into the wood, hold the scissors as you twirl the dowel.
10. Lay the photos on the floor like a family tree with the child at the top. Place the dowels between each generation and above each set of parents. Start attaching the photos to the dowels. Start with the bottom pictures and 5-inch dowels, making sure that each section balances before you move up. Keep the knots at the center of each dowel a little loose to help you adjust the balance. Use a dab of clay or Handy Tack where needed to help with the balancing as well.
11. Dab on glue to fix the fishing line once the section is balanced.
TESTER'S TIPS: Balancing the mobile can be tricky for little hands, so be sure to involve small kids at the beginning to choose photos and gather information.
World GenWeb For Kids
This site is for kids (18 and under) or classes to do genealogy/history
This page offers the basics to getting started.
Genealogy Instruction Beginners, Teenagers, and Kids
For the new beginning genealogists, adults, teens, and youngsters, who need a little help getting started.
US Genweb For Kids
Offers a message board for kids to post queires or questions, how to do genealogy, helpful sites.
A Genealogy Quest
This WebQuest is an introduction into using the Internet to help find information that may be great distances away, and as a tool to help save time and energy looking for links to the past.
Great resources site with lots of links
Geneology for kids
Another kids site