Thursday, January 10, 2008

Kids and genealogy


I have been reading you for quite awhile, and I am always so interested in what you have to say - whether it is on genealogy, family, cooking, or reading, and I just found out that you also like historical novels! I readily admit that you brought a tear to my eye when you told of taking your father on a trip around the Olympic Peninsula! That was so touching - especially since I could readily identify with many of the places you mentioned, and I also could identify with caring for an ill father. Sadly, I lost mine in 2003. He is the one who initially got me interested in genealogy, and it is hard sometimes, because I still want to share with him my "finds".

This past summer my 7-year-old granddaughter asked me what genealogy is, and since has become very interested! She always wants me to email her some "genealogy" as she lives in Oregon and I live in Washington. The other day on the phone, she mentioned that we hadn't had time to work on genealogy at Christmas. Truthfully, I have some difficulty trying to figure out exactly what to do for/with her.

I do have one little book to fill out, but there must be a lot out there to help with this subject.

So, I am asking your for guidance and where to start, how to proceed, available resources? At first, I just printed her a pedigree chart, then printed out her information from my genealogy program and let her copy it. That seemed to satisfy her at the time, but now what? Any help you can give me will be greatly appreciated. Of course, I tell her stories, but there must be more to keep her interest up? -- Thanks for any suggestions!

First, let me say that I am SURE your father is aware of your genealogy “finds”. Of all the angels in heaven, which ones do you think are most likely to ask permission to assist with YOUR family history? Now if my Dad could just push a book of the shelf into my hands at the Family History Library with the names of Dolly Yockey’s parents, I would greatly appreciate it.

How delightful to hear about your very precocious granddaughter. It is amazing how she has already been bitten by the genealogy bug. One is never too young to start.

May I first suggest that you send her an EMPTY NOTEBOOK to place the printouts of materials you’ll be creating.

Then send her a brief email every Sunday afternoon, with one small “complete on this page” anecdotal story. This could include recollections of:
  • Your grandchild's life
  • Her parent’s childhood or teen years
  • Your childhood, teen or adult years
  • Your parent’s childhood, teen or adult years
  • Houses you lived in
  • Food eaten
  • Places visited
  • Work completed
  • Favorite games, songs, and other pass times
  • Your grandparent’s lives
  • Military ancestors

Children particularly like things that:

  • Are visually stimulating.
  • Require active participation.
  • Include bright colors.
  • Have treasure maps to follow.
  • Are illustrated rather than just text.
  • Tempt the taste buds.
  • Sound interesting.
  • Include family artifacts.
  • Require getting dirty, like planting bright yellow marigolds and little purple pansies as great-grandmother once did.
  • Encourage interviews with other family members using equipment like video or tape recorders, a steno pad & pencil, and a "newspaper reporter's hat" made out of one of granddad's old black felt hats.
  • Involve field trips to cemeteries, old churches and family homesteads. (Also to favorite places you were taken to visit as a child.)

Let’s face it, THIS is going to be a most excellent adventure, that other members of the family will enjoy hearing about it as well. Here are some samples of emails I’ve sent to my grandchildren lately, with a CC to all my siblings.

This first example includes a FAKE old-timey picture of brothers Jim and Mike, with my Dad seated between them, dressed in old-fashioned clothing. Most of my grandchildren will readily recognize these folks.

FROM: Gramma
TO: My Dear Grandchildren
SUBJECT: Our famous ancestors...
Of course, this is Jim Bennett, Glen Player and Mike Player.
Love from
Grandma Pat,
The family genealogist

TO: My Dear Grandchildren
FROM: Gramma
SUBJECT: When Gretta saves Stacey & Tammy
After big family reunion last summer, each of you have been to Great-grampa Glen & Blanche's house in Medina, Washington. You will remember the "big woods" on the north end of the property, with the paths to where Bitey Boy (the cat) and Gretta (the dog) are buried. There is also the turn off to the blackberry patch, and there is a clearing where Great-grampa used to roast a whole pig on a hand-turned barbecue spit.

Well, now you can see how it is easy to get lost in the woods, as your mother Stacey & Aunt Tammy did when they were 3 & 4 years of age. Here is the picture of them AFTER they were rescued by Great-grampa's dog Gretta. This was taken in July 1976.

Kids just love to hear about the trouble their parents got into when they were little. My older grandchildren cannot believe that Stacey and Tammy got lost in the 1/4 acre woods and LOVE to tease them about the misadventure.

  • The USGenWeb Kidz Project - "The USGenWeb Kidz Project is designed to help kids learn their way around genealogical research. If they are exploring history in school by exploring your family history, this is a great resource for them. They can post queries, to see if anyone else is researching their ancestors! They can post questions, if the answers can't find be found easily! There is even a "how to" section to help them get going! The coordinator of the USGenWeb Kidz Project is Angela DiBlasi."
  • Roots for Kids: A Genealogy Guide for Young People by Susan Provost Beller (Paperback - Sep 30, 2007) available from
  • Climbing Your Family Tree: Online and Off-line Genealogy for Kids by Ira Wolfman (Paperback - Oct 1, 2002) available from

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
Your friend in genealogy.

(c) 2007 Pat Richley All Rights Reserved.

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