The year after my husband and I were married, my father-in-law told me a story that changed my life.
As a young Army mechanic stationed in his ancestral Germany during the late 1960’s, he spied an old book in a small bookshop that detailed his family history and even included a picture of the “family castle”. FAMILY CASTLE?! You can imagine the romantic thoughts going through my love-struck newlywed mind. I envisioned an enchanting trip with my handsome and chivalrous husband to visit the rebuilt ruins of this marvelous palace. I could wear my fake tiara on the tour and pretend I was a 13th century queen. But first…I had to find the place. (My father-in-law didn’t buy the book.)
- “Hey honey, you and Thomas Edison are 7th cousins 5 times removed!!”
- “Hey you are also related to President Teddy Roosevelt!!”
- “Ha! Your Colonial 9th great grandmother got arrested once for calling another woman a fatted pig.”
- “Wow, your 5th great grandmother was kidnapped and raised by Indians!”
- “Sweet, I am descendant of King Alfred the Great!”
- “Hey, check this out, your 6th great grandfather owned a wampum factory.”
Needless to say, it became more than just a hobby for me and I always looked forward to hopefully passing on this passion to the next generation.
How Can Genealogy Benefit Your Children?
Connects them to their roots
By the time our son was born, I had already traced both our family trees over the ocean, sometimes back into Medieval times. I was eager to eventually share all my findings with our son. Reading all those statements above, can you see how fascinating genealogy can be, especially to a child? Knights, Kings, Presidents, war heroes, Indians! Imagine the delight in my little boy’s eyes when he hears stories like these:
Once upon a time, over two hundred years ago, the entire northwest corner of Ohio was covered with a dark, nasty, bug infested swamp. It was so scary and dangerous that the Native Americans wouldn’t even go near it. Wolves, bears and wildcats roamed freely among the wooded swamp and many people who ventured near the swamp got lost…never to be seen again. One day, a brave and adventurous man set out to tame that great black swamp. With his own two hands and his trusty ax, he was one of the first daring men to clear out a portion of that swamp, build a log cabin and start a farm. Do you know who that courageous man was? That was your daddy’s great-grandpa’s great-grandpa!
This story really sparked his curiosity and he immediately wanted to know all about the history of Ohio, and more importantly, the history of daddy’s family. He was fascinated with “Swamp Grandpa” as he called him.
Helps with self-esteem and sense of pride
Knowing the accomplishments of his many great grandpas has helped my son feel brave and eager to conquer his part of the world. Sometimes when something is challenging, I can remind him of such people like the grandpa who was wounded in the Civil War but still volunteered to fight another tour of duty, or the grandma who ran a farm and raised 8 children all by herself after her husband passed.
Teaches Valuable “Real-life” Skills
Genealogists are also detectives, always looking for the next little clue. Little do they know, they are learning the important skills of researching, organizing, categorizing and more!
Brings History Alive
“Did you know that one of Mommy’s ancestors is a real genuine Mayflower Pilgrim?!” or “Did you know that one of Daddy’s ancestors fought on the same battlefield with William Wallace?!” Suddenly the Pilgrims and William Wallace are real people instead of figures in a book. The voyages, battles, and other experiences can become real and exciting events instead of boring dates and places. Our ancestors can inspire a child to delve deeper into living history.
Develops Closeness and Appreciation
Studying your family lines can develop an appreciation for all family members, no matter what their job, lifestyle, or culture. Everyone has a story to tell. Everyone is fascinating in some way. Kids, and grown-ups, can learn to not overlook a certain person because they do not appear interesting. We found an ancestor who lived a meager, routine life as a struggling farmer, but tracing back through his childhood we learned that this farmer came to America on his own at the age of 15! Imagine the stories he has!!
Have you traced your family tree? I am very interested in hearing your thoughts. Join me tomorrow as we explore some tips and fun activities to help you and your children trace your family tree.
Read part two of this series.
*Disclosure: this post may contain affiliate links.
- Genealogy for Kids: part 2
- A Wee Bit O’ Fun