How To Get Kids Interested In Genealogy

Perhaps it is because of my age, but people always assume that I am an expert in the feild of getting kids interested in genealogy. But truthfully, I am just as clueless as everyone else.

Since my 7 year old little cousin moved in to my apartment building, I’ve been trying to get her interested in genealogy. I want her to someday have the same passion for genealogy as I do. Many of the things that I originally tried only confused her or made her incredibly bored.
I started brainstorming strategies on getting her interested in genealogy and here is what I came up with:
  • Tell interesting stories: Dates and places are not interesting, but stories are. Filter the story to the age/interests of the listener. For example, if you’ve got a little girl who loves to hear romantic stories, then talking about how Grandma and Grandpa met will get her interested. However, if you’ve got a little boy who loves to play with army men, then telling the story about how Great-Grandpa Joe saved the life of another soldier during the war. When I volunteered at Kids Camp at the Jamboree, we asked the kids to tell their family stories – and they LOVED it. The kids were so excited to share their stories, and it even got some of the parents joining in to tell stories.
  • Take them places: There is nothing like going to the actual house that Grandpa grew up in or to the bakery that Grandma used to walk to buy dinner rolls. You could go to the church that Great-Grandma and Great-Grandpa got married in. You could go to a military museum to show the kids the weapons that Grandpa carried while in the military. Going to these places is fun because the kids can run around, touch things, and explore.
  • Show them pictures: (Obviously, only show COPIES and not the originals). Pictures bring the names to life. It is a lot of fun to connect the stories to a face. Show them pictures from when you were a kid or compare their features to the features of Grandma (“You have the same eyes as Grandma!”).
If you think about it, one of these things is probably how all of us got interested in genealogy. None of us got interested in genealogy because we loved dates. We all have to show the kids in our family why we are so passionate about our family trees.
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11 Responses to How To Get Kids Interested In Genealogy

  1. Great post!

    My 4-year old daughter's favorite thing at bedtime is to hear "real" stories. So I try to remember things from my childhood that will appeal to her, like riding a bike or a horse, going to the beach, etc. Not only does she enjoy it more than just another princess story, but it helps me remember my past as well.

  2. some really great ideas here, Elyse! I found that my 13 year old nephew got really interested when he found out we had some Scottish heritage and that there were Vikings involved!

  3. If you were a teacher and teaching young kids about US history, I would try to connect US history with their Family history. Like your grandparents were around in WWII, maybe they could give their own perspectives on the War. I found that doing my genealogy through college made my history classes much more enjoyable.

    When they're really little, start out small, nothing beyond Grandparents, parents, aunts, and uncles and through the years add great-grandparents.

    Well Elyse, you gave me an idea for a blog!

  4. Great Post, Elyse! Passing it on is one of the most important think we do.

  5. Excellent advice – it was actually remembering family stories that ultimately got me into genealogy (though I was an adult when this I finally got into genealogy, the seeds were planted in childhood).

  6. My five year old thinks its funny to see pictures of Mommy and Daddy as little kids. She can't believe we were ever young. And it's even more entertaining when we show pictures of Grandma as a little girl. A simple pedigree chart showing her, her parents (me and my husband), grandparents and great-grandparents (since she has 2 living still) has been an easy tool to help explain it and the added bonus of pictures keeps her entertained.

  7. My granddaughter came home from school (fourth grade?, went to the breakfast room and pointed to the "family tree" on the wall. They studied Antartica today, she said, and how it was explored by her great-grandfather Admiral Charles Wilkes (4thggf, actually.) I think youngsters like to see an occupation, even something ordinary like farmer or salesman, along with the dates and places. Dee in Maryland

  8. Elyse, I just ran across your blog thanks to a link from Randy Seaver's blog. And so far I am impressed. I recently started a genealogy blog. So far it isn't much to look at but I would appreciate if you (and any others that would care to) would take a look at it and make any suggestions. http://rootstwigsandberries.blogspot.com/ But keep up the good writing, I look forward to catching up on your posts!

  9. I gave up on my nieces and nephews. The girls are interested in boys and the boys are interested in video games. Have a new generation in the oven so I'm going to try again.

  10. These are great ideas.

  11. My first research into my family history was on my Orella line…My father's paternal Grandmother had passed by the time I was born, and my dad would take me every Sunday to my great Grandfather's house to hear stories of his early adult life with his brother's and meeting Dariel Anotnia Orella, falling in love and having two boys…one of whom is my grandfather….almost 35 years later, my girls see my passion for genealogy and are asking me questions…to the point that one of them asked if she could be a doctor AND a genealogist when she grew up…If you have the passion to learn and explore it is contagious and infectious but in a really good way….

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