Discovering Family History Together

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The following is by contributor Vanessa Brown of I Never Grew Up.

I have to admit that we are quite spoiled when it comes to the Family History department. No, not that we happen to have a very awesome family tree (who doesn’t?), but that my grandparents have made it their life mission to get thousands of years of family history in an organized order.

This means they have collected all of the photos, lineage, journal entries, news clips, stories, etc. and published books for the family for all of us to have in our homes. Family history is right at our fingertips, but not everyone has a family member that is extremely into family history. And on the other side of our family, the research is not nearly as extensive.

Where Do I Even Start in Teaching Family History?

There are many things I *wish* I would have done with family members, and I want to teach my girls to put these things as priorities in their lives. For example, last year my grandmother passed away after fighting Alzheimer’s for a few years. Throughout my whole life, she and I had an extremely close relationship that we kept strong through long talks on the phone and handwritten letters to each other.

Ask Questions

A big key to teaching family history to your children is encouraging them to keep a strong relationship with their grandparents and showing them by example.

However, I did not ask my grandmother enough questions about her mother and aunt who raised her. I didn’t ask how things were when she was young or if she remembered her grandparents at all. After she became too sick to remember anything, my mother and I wished we had sat down with her, talked with her about these things and recorded them so we could share them with everyone.

Teaching my children to ask specific questions in order to get family history stories from their relatives is now very high on my list.

Image Source Vanessa Brown

Journaling

Teaching my children that keeping their personal history through journaling is another thing that I want to convey. These days you can do this in so many fun ways: through short videos, blogs, writing stories and publishing them, or keeping a handwritten journal.

My two girls have personal blogs and we sit down about every other Sunday and help them update with what is important in their life. One day it might be how they really like foxes. The next day it could be a short video of them singing their favorite song or the next day it could be one of the latest stories that they write.

Photographs

I know I personally love looking at photos from past generations. They are so captivating to me! I love seeing what Great Great Grandmother looked like when she was getting married or seeing what my mother looked like as a brand new baby. Finding old photos and putting them together in an album would be such a fun family activity. It’s also important to take pictures of your own that you know future generations will love just as much.

Image Source Vanessa Brown
In a few weeks I have planned a trip to a Family History Center so I can learn how to sit down and work on my family history on my own. After this I plan to take a trip with my oldest daughter to show her how it works as well.

Luckily my church, the Mormon church, has centers all around the country where you can learn how to put together your family lines, see what has been found out there so far and learn how to do research to find even more. Many people who have nothing to do with our religion use these centers to work on their family history. They welcome visitors. You can find one near you here: http://www.familysearch.org/eng/library/fhc/frameset_fhc.asp

In summary, a good way to start teaching the importance of family history to your children and to make it a priority in your life would be: encourage strong relationships between extended family members with your children, have your children ask family members about specific stories in their life, keep their family history through journaling, collect photos from past generations together and plan a trip to a family history center to learn the basics.

Do you have any family history projects planned for the new year?

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About Vanessa

Vanessa Brown blogs over at I Never Grew Up. She has four little girls, two old dogs, and one dog training expert husband and is currently residing in Costa Rica.

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Comments

  1. Journaling is so important for sure! I wish I had been taught earlier that writing wasn’t the only form of journaling and that I didn’t just have to write about the day’s events. Instead, I wish I would have learned that I could paste in photos, do drawings, write poems, and more, as a way of Journaling! I also agree about keeping connections to past generations strong is vital! I remember getting bored when my aunt would take out the ‘Family Tree’ though so I wish there was a better way of engaging kids about family history. Anyone know of anything available that maybe is more interactive or maybe makes a game out of exploring one’s family history?
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  2. That is a good question! For a more interactive game, other than a family tree…let me look around for you and I’ll send you something!

  3. We love talking about and learning about our family history! Most of it has to come from my husband’s side for my kids, since my MIL has done a wonderful job researching family trees on that side. Almost all of my family is dead, so all I have is my maternal grandmother for stories (and she hates to talk about most of it!).

    I was hidden from my father all of his life and I feel such a loss not only for missing out on knowing him but also from knowing my paternal grandparents and learning that side of my family history. Still, I love passing on the stories I do know to my kids and learning about their father’s side of things. :)
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