Family history means getting to know the folks we plan to spend forever with. But our kids don’t always see it that way. Where we find gripping stories and a trail of love leading endlessly into the past, they see boring charts and long hours of library research. As a genealogy columnist and parent of young children, I’ve learned fun ways to turn the hearts of my children toward their forebearers—without a single cry of “Bor-ing!”
Tell a Story
It’s easy to add tales of family to everyday conversation. My kids are most interested in themselves, so I tell them about their own pasts. We read their baby books. I remind them about old favorite songs, playmates, and pastimes.
Children also like to hear other kids’ stories about school, friendships, siblings, or parents. Whenever an opportunity presents itself, I pipe up with a short anecdote from my childhood (or my parents’ or grandparents’ childhoods). They especially love hearing the memories behind family traditions, from blueberry picking in July to nativity readings at Christmas.
Family history is a perfect family home evening topic, too. My son once asked how he was related to a favorite cousin, so we spent FHE drawing a family tree with all the cousins on it. Another time, we read a one-page biography and had a trivia contest about an interesting ancestor. Just use whatever stories or artifacts you have handy. Share your memories or an old newspaper clipping. Use scrapbooks as jumbo-sized storybooks. Create a digital slide show of old or new family photos, narrate it, and serve popcorn.
Recently I drove my family through my childhood hometown. We passed two homes I lived in and our ward meetinghouse.
On a later trip, we visited the neighborhood where my husband’s great-grandfather was a firefighter.
These places are now family landmarks. My children can visualize the exact city block or rural cul-de-sac where young relatives played. They heard the memories that sprang to my mind as we drove slowly through my old neighborhood.
I did learn a few tips about hometown stops with young children. Make the historical tour brief. If you need to make a longer stop (like to visit elderly relatives or look up genealogy information), think of ways to engage the children as much as you can. End with a kid-friendly stop at a playground or park.
Chances are good your children will remember your hometown, even if you think they’re not paying attention. Someday they may make the same pilgrimage with their children, or at least share their memories of it, and your landmarks will be handed down.