How to Interest Your Children in Ancestry Research 

Ancestry research isn’t some dry, academic pursuit. It’s the search for stories, the stories of the men and women who came before us. Reading about these stories makes history feel more personal. It makes history come alive.  

Learning about your own family’s history can transform your children’s self-esteem and give them role models to follow. Life has always been difficult, but in earlier times, especially during the first and second world wars, challenging circumstances sometimes brought out the best in a few people. 

Since it’s not always easy to get kids interested in history, even their own family history, here are a few ways to vivify ancestry research so that your children can feel proud of their heritage. 

Discover Your Ancestors 

An obituary search will do far more than tell you when your ancestors passed away.  It will help you discover the story of your family. 

Think of these obituaries as narratives. They highlight what your ancestor’s achieved in life. Their obituaries will reveal how they lived and loved. They will disclose what people remember most about their lives.  

Another benefit of ancestry research using obituaries is that it will give you a few clues on what research further. For instance, you may want to understand more about the large historical events that influenced your family line. 

Serve Dishes Your Ancestors Cooked

One fun way to make the stories of your ancestors interesting for your children is to research the meals they ate and then cook these traditional dishes at home.  

For instance, in the 1800s, Americans only ate locally grown or hunted food. Supermarkets and nationally distributed foods did not exist back then. A common meal in the 1800s might be a simple bowl of corn and beans. 

If your ancestors lived in the North, where cattle were common, they ate beef and dairy foods like milk and butter. If they lived in the South, were cattle were scarce, they ate game meat. Wives and mothers often served venison for dinner. 

Since this was the era long before refrigeration, preservation was challenging. Salting, drying, and smoking foods were necessary. Your ancestors probably stored vegetables and fruits and nuts gathered in the summer in root cellars. They preserved their vegetables for the colder seasons by pickling them.

Find Old Photographs   

Little children love pictures, so discovering pictures from old newspapers and family photo albums can spark their interest in family history research.  

This is an especially good way to interest smaller children because they are primarily visual. It’s much more interesting to see what a great-great-grandfather looked like before learning about his hard life as a rancher. 

Read Old Newspaper Stories  

Journalists wrote newspaper stories in a far different way a few centuries ago. They focused less on facts and figures and made more of an effort to engage readers with interesting and entertaining stories.

Articles were also often brief and written in simple language about homier topics.  For instance, small-town reporters would cover children’s birthday parties at the request of parents who wanted their children’s pictures in the local paper. 

Why You Should Pass Down Your Family Stories 

Family stories will give your children a perspective about their own lives. They will see the courage and hardships that their ancestors faced and that strengthened them against social injustice and adversity. It’s hard for us to appreciate our many blessings until we’re reminded about the challenges faced by others who came before us. 

Learning about their ancestors will also encourage your children to have empathy for the experiences that other people went through in earlier times to eke out a living and contribute to their community. 

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