It’s tough to get kids to take an interest in things that they think are “just for old people”. Anything pertaining to history usually falls in that category, with genealogy way up the list. The simple fact is that most kids don’t really see what value that information has for them.
That is, until they hit a teachable moment. Kids are funny that way. You can’t force them to take an interest in something, but if it gets their attention, they’ll attack it like a vampire. And genealogy is a good example.
As an example, consider the Olympics. This is an off year, but in 2018 there will be another round of winter games. Your kids will probably tune in to watch figure skating, skiing, hockey, or something, and along the way, they might see something that gets their attention. It could be an athlete from some other country who shares your last name, or it may simply be an intriguing flag being raised at a medal ceremony. Whatever it is, it could spark an interest in finding out where your ancestors came from.
Another possibility is the emergence of a genetic condition. If your child or someone else in the family is diagnosed with some type of congenital condition, it could inspire them to find out more about the family tree.
Whatever the trigger may be, make the most of it! At the first inquiry about who your family is or where it came from, put your kids to work. Researching family genealogy can be a fascinating hobby shared by all members of the family, and it can provide information that will be beneficial for generations to come.
There are countless tricks of the trade involved in family research. You can balance your strategies based on what’s easiest for you. If your circumstances make it easier to do your work mostly online, you can do that. If you aren’t as computer-savvy (or if you’re just looking for a good excuse to travel), you can visit libraries, cemeteries, universities, courthouses, and many other locations to track down information.
You’ll find advantages and disadvantages in each of these categories as you work with your children to learn about the family. If you travel to a library, for example, you’ll see quickly that it can be a little more time-consuming to locate items than if you simply went online and got scanned versions. But history can be so much more real when you can handle an old newspaper that carried news of your family, or flip through the oversized books that logged their marriage licenses, deeds, and business records. Those are the things that really get kids engaged in the research.
And the travel itself can be amazing. Your family history will truly come to life as you walk the streets they walked, survey the fields they farmed, or travel the roads they drove to work each day. Knowing that ancestors from three or four generations ago once stood where you and the kids stand is a powerful experience.
Of course, the great benefit of searching online is the lower cost and higher speed. Even with membership fees, online repositories are far cheaper than even a few short trips. When you are starting with very little information, online tools can be far superior. There are so many holes to fill that it’s probably impractical and definitely expensive to try to go find the information in person. Instead, you can quickly build your tree, filling in those names, dates, and places, keeping your kids’ attention and making them feel like the process has been productive. Then when time and money allow, you can follow up in person.
Family research is a fascinating and informative hobby. But it’s only enjoyable for kids when it’s meaningful to them, too. If an opportunity has presented itself to do genealogy with your kids, find tools that will help them enjoy the process with you.