Gerber Life Family Times --- News and tips for familes of all ages and stages of life

Backward through the Looking Glass
 Genealogy for kids

April 2003 Issue

A Growing Problem
Mold in Your Home

Little Shutterbugs
Introducing Kids
to Photography

Genealogy for Kids

SUV Safety

Vision Screening
for Kids

Did You Know?

Mail Bag

Gerber Life
Family Times Archive

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It may not happen until your children are well into their adulthood but, at some time, an interest in their heritage is going to become important. Almost everyone has a curious interest in how their ancestors lived and made the choices that shaped their lives. Genealogy is a fascinating pastime and an ideal family project. The process of tracing a family tree will introduce your child (and yourself) to history, science, genetics, and geography in a real-world setting. The additional experience of learning how to conduct research will bear fruit long into your child’s academic career.

Building a family tree can be as simple or complex as you like (although for many it becomes a totally engrossing pastime). A great place for children to start is with their own baby book. Most of these books contain a few pages featuring a beginning family tree – usually up to the grandparent level. Start you child off with a copy of this basic tree, a divided notebook, a camera (disposables are fine), a box for filing and even a basic tape recorder.

Then begin walking them through some basic questions with you and your spouse; what is your full name, where were you born, what was your mother’s name, your father’s name, brothers and sisters, etc. Help them in building the first steps in your family tree. From that point, they can move on to grandparents and watch the tree grow.

If your children are very young and relatives are older, take the initiative and videotape or record grandparents, aunts and uncles answering the basic questions and telling the anecdotes that will bring the past to life for your children when they are older. By capturing voices and images, you’ll be saving a precious legacy that your children may not be able to experience in person.

Photographs and copies of important documents are the backbone of any genealogical research – teach your child to clearly document photos, birth certificates, and marriage licenses. Include as much information about the picture or document as possible. However, don’t write directly on the back of photos (the imprint of the pen will damage the image area on the front of the photo). Write on an adhesive label and apply it to the photograph.

Show your children how to use your computer – it is a wonderful tool in genealogical research. There are many genealogical sites and services available for free and a great deal of legwork can be done from the computer. Census records and immigration records through Ellis Island may be found online and are often fascinating in what they reveal. If it turns out that your kids are really into the ancestral search process, plan family trips to the towns and cities where your ancestors originated. Be sure to visit courthouses, churches and historical societies where ancestral documents are often housed.

This type of research will also help prepare your child for research and library work that will be an integral part of their high school and college studies.

Genealogy is a treasure hunt that can reap deep emotional rewards and a better understanding of who we are and the path that has brought us to this current point in our lives.

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