Is genealogy for kids? YES! Especially, in fact.
When I talk to kids about genealogy, chances are that they’re all sitting in a circle (sometimes kids in a classroom, church, wherever). And at first they’re bored & whining. They can’t wait til it’s over to go do anything else. But then I get their attention with some personalized info I quickly dug up to share with them. I want to help moms get their kids to listen, embrace and remember who their ancestors are. So I teach moms to make it good! Mom makes it funny, mom makes it seem real, mom makes them feel proud. Their identities are developing right now & it this family history is directly connected to their overall well-being.
If all you have are names & photos of tombstones to show them then, yes, it is boring. What I choose to have kids sit in on is the particularly interesting stuff. They enjoy hearing about battle locations that their ancestors were at, what rank they held & they can even get to imagining how it all went over. I recently told of a battle my family was involved in where our soldiers had the element of surprise because we came up from behind a mountain when the enemy expected us to come up the frontmost direct route. They didn’t think we would be coming from behind to shoot them in the butts. Us Soldiers (including my grandfather) snuck up & wiped them out from the rear! When you phrase it THAT WAY, your kids are in the palm of your hand waiting to hear more (they love it when add the words butt or poop to any story). I then talked about what would have been our fate if they did not fight that battle at all or if we didn’t win, if we were the ones who were shot in the butt. And about some of the battles they didn’t win. And about how some soldiers never come home. After the laugh, because kids laugh about the silly phrasing we get serious for just a minute & discuss why war is sad for everybody, but sometimes it is unavoidable, etc.
I have seen kids are glow with a new shade of pride after a quick 15 minute history pitch. A sense of BELONGING here in America. They understand that their grandfathers fought that war, handed us an established country where just being born on this soil gives anybody privilege. They understand that they have every right to not only be in America but also to say what happens to it. That goes a long way. I know it does because when I was little, I didn’t have anyone telling me about my ancestors. I was a leaf with no idea which tree I came from. Was it peach? Cherry? Almond? No wonder when we shake up the family tree all the nuts fall out! (again, phrasing makes the kids laugh & engage) I finally decided my people MUST be from a cocoa tree, I’m just looking for the Florida ancestors so we can prove it. My passion for chocolate speaks for itself. I digress, but, when I learned about my heritage as an adult, I recognized that if I had grown up with the knowledge, it would have been a good thing.
If you do your homework, put a story together, bring your ancestor to life & introduce your kids to them, they will grow up with a special, unique brand of self esteem. A kind that is all but lost from newer generations & is replaced with entitlement. Big mistake. Don’t lose your history.
Fun Activity Idea: We happen to have LOTS of Quaker ancestors. I looked up how the Quakers got their name because I knew the kids in our family would first associate it with oatmeal. It ended up making for a very funny skit. As the story goes, one of our ancestors was in front of a judge waiting to hear what his fine was for the accusation & conviction of blasphemy (he had been caught peddling religious books). The judge asked him to remove his hat in the courtroom and our Uncle William refused. He told the judge, “Instead of worrying about silly things like hats, you should be quakin’ before the LORD! The judge then got angry at the disrespect & said, “Get that quaker out of here!” Of course most kids won’t want to do a dumb ol skit at first, but once they get into the acting, they really get into it. It may be short, but there will be laughter and they will never forget that they came here because their grandfather was THROWN out of what is now Germany because he kept getting caught peddling his religious books. My youthful audience then wanted to know what was so bad about those books. So, we looked up what the Quakers believed. Didn’t seem too bad to us but I guess they didn’t like it in Germany. These quakers established almost the entire state of Pennsylvania because so many had to come here to study their religion in peace.
If you are passionate about Genealogy, don’t underestimate its value to your kids while they are still kids. American history is what it is, don’t avoid the rough parts. We are here today, all of us, because some men had a vision (and, no other choice, really, because they couldn’t just get back on the boat & go back where they came from). America is a place where you are free to believe what you want, where anybody can be anything they want to be. The same blood that powered those brave soldiers is running through our bodies today. The difference it makes when kids are raised knowing it vs learning it when they are adults is beautiful. They grow up more confident & more resilient. Here is a link that tells you about one study that’s been done to confirm what I’m telling you. Though I don’t need a study to tell me what I can see for myself, some people really love “studies”.
If you are hesitant to talk about things like the Cowboys vs Indians, or other things that we are shamed for today, I get that. But I have conquered this issue too. Next blog, perhaps, will address the ancestor shaming going on.