Exploring your family’s past with your children is a fun way to spend a rainy day. With resources available online, it’s possible to trace your family history centuries into the past. Understanding where your family came from brings children pride and opens their imaginations when thinking about the past.
A Family Tree
The easiest way to start children off with a family history project is by making a family tree. Take advantage of newspaper archives and census data available online. Family members can also search US obituaries online as well as those in many other countries. These resources help to provide the framework for building a family tree.
Thanks to the ever lowering price of processing, family members can also opt for a DNA test to track down long-lost relatives. This can help to fill in the missing gaps in a family tree being put together.
Use a large piece of poster board and trace out your family’s relationships. Use just a few generations for young children, highlighting people the child knows. Start with parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Print out photos of everyone in your family tree, letting children choose which photos to use.
For older relatives, it is especially fun to find photos of them when they were close to the age of the children doing the project. This will give your child a personal connection to the past, as they might resemble their older relatives more than they realized.
Family Photo Album
If you have the resources to do so, assembling a family photo album is a great project for older children. Ask older relatives for old family photos from their childhood. This is a great way to involve multiple generations in the project. First, it may be necessary to make high-quality copies of the photos so that original documents are not damaged in making the project. When copies are made, you can make an album simply by arranging photos in chronological order and placing them in a premade album.
For more creativity and freedom of expression, make a photo scrapbook. Children can help decorate this scrapbook, which will help them remember the photos better and teach them more about their heritage. Previously mentioned newspaper articles and other documents can also be included in a scrapbook. For a fun historical touch, including articles and photos of current events and popular items from the decade the pictures were taken. Grandparents will enjoy going through some of their favorite things with their grandchildren, creating another opportunity for bonding.
Older children and teens may enjoy becoming genealogists and working on a more detailed family tree. Even if your family has not done much genealogy, this is a family project that is quite easy to start with information available on the internet. Go as far back as you can with family records, and then start searching for the parents of the oldest people in your chart. You may even be able to trace records of immigrant relatives back to their countries of origin.
It is fascinating to see an accurate account of family history come together, explaining the story of your family throughout the centuries. This is another time when grandparents and older relatives can be involved, giving children a better understanding of their family throughout time. Sometimes unexpected surprises can be found while doing genealogy research. Perhaps your family changed its name when emigrating, and perhaps they are from a different country than you had always believed.
Family history projects are a great way to teach children about the importance of their loved ones. Looking back into the past, they may be surprised to see how much has changed and what has stayed the same. Learning family history is a special way for the generations to bond, giving grandparents a chance to show children something about themselves.