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Monday, April 1, 2013


Has your child ever had to make a family tree as a homework assignment? Was it a painstaking process for both of you? Ashley Kerkovich joins us today with some tips on how to approach such assignments. Even if your child doesn’t have to construct a family tree for school, this is a family project you might want to undertake on your own. Of course, you’ll want to make yours a good deal simpler than the one shown of Ludwig Herzog and his descendants.

Ashley Kerkovich writes about family, history, parenting and teaching. Her best work can be found at www.topeducationdegrees.org.-- AP

How to Inspire Children to Trace Their Family Ancestry
Do you know where your family comes from? Perhaps you don't because you've never traced your family tree. If you do know your history from a family tree, you might wonder why it's important to have your children do their own. Well, they might find information that you didn't know about, and doing so will really give them a connection to their past. How exactly can you make children want to indulge in this hobby? Read on to find out!

Make It Fun
If you make tracing the family history sound like a homework assignment, you're not going to inspire anyone to partake in the task. Ask them exciting and engaging questions such as, "Do you know where your great-great grandmother was born?" If the answer is no, introduce a family tree as a way to find out the answers.

Start with Basics
While tracing the family history back hundreds of years is possible, doing so is quite overwhelming for children. Start with the basic building blocks. Show them what a family tree looks like and then ask them to put together one with the people who they do know. This family tree would include parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and perhaps another generation back if the child knows of the relatives. Once the foundations have been laid down, parents and children can work together to learn more about their families.

Do It Together
As mentioned earlier, tracing a family history is not necessarily an easy task. Work with your child to help him or her construct the family tree. Tell your child that you will use tools in which he or she is interested. For example, take book worms to the library or to a local historical site to conduct research on individuals who have lived in the area. If your child loves to play on the computer, utilize the famous Ancestry.com to find out where your relatives came from. Help children understand the process, and show them how to navigate the website. You could also search old newspapers and magazines, either online or in person, to see if a relative's name ever appeared in any of these publications.

Inspire with Trips
Tell your child that there will be some trips in store if he or she can find the family history. Visit places that had meaning to your ancestors. If your ancestors came over from Russia or Mexico, you don't necessarily need to plan a trip across the world if funds and time do not allow for it. However, you could plan a trip to the town in which your ancestors lived when they first arrived in the country, or if you have German blood in you, you could head to Amish country. Another exciting tourist attraction for people interested in history is Ellis Island, the place where so many European immigrants arrived. Children can tour the facility and then look out to the Statue of Liberty.

Getting a child, especially a child who is largely uninterested in history and the past, to trace the family tree is tough. However, you just need to think like your child to make this a less stressful undertaking. Know your child's interests and use those interests as tools for discovery. Offer rewards and trips for discovering more information once your child has completed some initial steps.

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