Creating a family tree with your children not only provides an opportunity for communication and quality time, but also teaches them to appreciate history.
In a time when a deep knowledge of history is lacking (compared to previous generations), a family tree is a tangible tool that demonstrates to your kids their place in the grand scheme of things. You don’t have to be a genealogy expert to get started. Promise!
A lost art
At one point in time, people cherished their family trees and gave them a place of honor in the home. Today, it’s rare to see one displayed, but not because they aren’t important.
“Considering all of the demands and stresses on today’s families, it’s no wonder that something like a family history isn’t a priority,” says Maureen Wlodarczyk, a genealogist with over 35 years of experience. “But, adding family history discussions and activities to the family can foster respect and pride in the family, encourage an interest in reading and history and provide a great show-and-tell topic.”
Learn how to trace your family tree: Online genealogy resources >>
Worth the effort
Family trees were once reserved only for those with distinguished backgrounds, amazing stories about their heritage or, frankly, royalty.
Today, every family can embrace genealogy as a legitimate tool to trace the past and honor their history.
“Not unlike baking Christmas cookies and other family activities that are based on — or create — family traditions, involving children in the creation of a family tree is a way to preserve family connections, share a sense of the value of history and encourage storytelling,” says Wlodarczyk.
Try researching your family tree >>
With the passing of time, our connection to family roots tends to fade. That is, unless we actively work to preserve it. “A family tree, and genealogy in general, brings context, continuity and connection to who we are and where we came from,” says Wlodarczyk. “In the simplest form, the family tree shows us that with each prior generation, the size of our family grows wider on the tree, which allows parents to reinforce that we aren’t so different from others in our world.”
Find out how to make a family tree with your baby’s handprint >>
Tackling a family tree project can be intimidating, but there are so many great tools available to help you. Look into local resources such as libraries and Family History Centers. In addition to “keep it simple,” Wlodarczyk provides the following practical tips to help you on the journey:
- Look into pre-printed family tree charts. Give one to each child and let them fill in as much as they can.
- Frame the activity as a “history detective” project and send the kids on a scavenger hunt to find pictures or documents that may help.
- Encourage the kids, if they’re old enough, to talk to older family members and record their memories in a notebook. Family interviews are worth preserving.
- Seek the services of a professional genealogist if you really want to delve into the family roots or hit a dead-end on your own.