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Making Family History Fun (page 2)

Making Family History Fun

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Updated on Nov 24, 2008

Here’s a fun way to use old snapshots and teach your children about their physical heritage.  Find two photographs each of 8 people from your family—if possible, one snapshot from their childhood, and one from their adulthood (for younger family members, you could do a baby picture and a picture of them a few years older).  Arrange the photographs face down on a table four rows across and four rows down in a square.  Have your children play “Go Fish” by flipping over and matching photographs of the people in your family at two different periods in their lives.  Now is a great time to talk about family resemblances to the ancestors in the photos—do you or your children have Great Aunt Edna’s eyes, or the Rupp nose? What seems to be the dominant trait in your family? Seeing family pictures helps children feel connected with family members who may be far away, or who they may never have met.

Migration Map 

Most of us, unless we are of pure Native American blood, can claim some sort of immigrant ancestry.  Your children can chart your family’s journey to the “New World” by making a migration map. You will need: A map of the world, foam or cork backing for the map, push pins in different colors and string to help your children visualize the journey. 

To begin, do a little research on your matrilineal and patralineal ancestry (your mother's and father's families) going as far back as their emigration to America—from which country did they come?  How did they get to the U.S., and when?  

Once you have gathered information about your family, assign each family whose migration story you have gathered a different color push pin.  Have your children help you find their countries of origin on the map, and then use push pins to mark their path to where your family is now.  

Connect their push pins with string, and your children can imagine the journey their pioneering ancestors had to make for your family to be where they are today.  Just think: your family from Scotland who went through Castle Garden, New York, may have push pins spanning the map across the Atlantic; if that family then went West during the 19th century, you might track their progress on the Oregon Trail all the way to the Pacific Ocean.  Kids can see that their ancestors have literally come “from sea to shining sea”!  

These suggestions will start your child out on the path to discovering their ancestry, and learning about history. But, the beauty of genealogy is that it’s always possible to dig deeper. McLean suggests that one of the ways to further children’s study of their roots is to get them interested in “how [their] roots contribute to [their] individuality.”  She believes that good, age-appropriate literature can spark this consideration in children—from Alex Haley’s Roots for older readers to Betsy Hearne’s Seven Brave Women for the younger set, books can ground children not only in the past as their ancestors knew it but show kids how history continues to shape their lives today.

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