Just as children get physical characteristics from us, their parents, they also have a rich heritage of family accomplishments and information. Studying your family tree can provide insight into family dynamics, specific physical attributes, and even tendencies toward athletic or academic interests. Learning about your roots and about the branches of your family tree can help your children feel a sense of grounding—or even pride—in the characteristics of their ancestors.
My first step into genealogical research began right after I finished college—when a great-aunt passed away. After the burial service, I walked around the small rural cemetery, reading the names and dates on the headstones. I was able to trace generation after generation of my grandfather’s Scotch-Irish family line—going back over 200 years in this one little cemetery. That sparked my interest, and I soon spent some time in the state archives. There, I found large bound books of county census records that listed my relatives during various times over the centuries. It was a treasure book of information that I could never have learned elsewhere.
In the years since, technology abounds, and much of this same genealogical information is available online. There are websites and organizations that you can join to connect with others who are searching as well. It is easy to develop relationships with distant relatives and obtain more family details to add to your collection. I traced my family tree on both sides of my family to a point. I now have new cousins that I consider as close as some of my first cousins. We’ve discovered that our great grandfathers were brothers!
Granted, visiting cemeteries may not be at the top of the list of fun family activities. Spending time at the computer (not playing a game) might not be a favorite. However, family tree research can be an interesting, educational activity! Consider posting a drawing of a large tree with expansive branches. Post photos of family members and place them on branches. Children will like seeing their own photographs at the base of the tree. Obtain from family members any photos of great grandparents and others. As your research expands and you post the names of distant relatives, let the children draw pictures of what they think Great-great-grandfather Leo looked like. As you learn the cities, states, or countries of origin of family members, do a simple study of the location. If locations are close by, take a day trip to explore! You can also study your last name and discover its origin. The most important thing to do is to document all of the information you’ve collected. When your children get older, they will appreciate having access to all that you have obtained.
You yourself may even enjoy the research process! Hopefully, this project will bring your family closer and deepen your children’s pride in your family. Make the experience fun and enjoy dusting the cobwebs off your heritage!