With summer upon us, we see lots of things growing. Grass, flowers, and trees are all at full-speed with the warm temperatures approaching. But the best thing you and your kids could grow this summer could be a family tree.
Conducting a family history and ancestry search is easier than ever with so many digital tools at your disposal like digitally archived newspapers. And if you have kids, you have some skilled tech users in the home who can really enhance your own work on the effort.
It really gives you the best of both worlds. Your kids will still have a lot of screen time, but they’ll be doing something productive that will teach them some good research skills and resourcefulness.
Here’s something of a road map for how to utilize the summer break as a family research opportunity.
Gather The Starting Points
The level of existing information will vary from family to family. At a bare minimum, you probably have at least a few facts as far back as your grandparents. Before engaging your kids in the process, get all these facts together and verify as much of it as you can.
Getting confirmation of what you have in old Bibles, family records, or other sources is critical. Remember that we’re doing a lot of genealogy online these days, and if you don’t get things right with a computer, it will never find what you’re looking for.
Lots of things could go wrong; if a date or spelling is incorrect, you may end up with no results on your search. You could also get the wrong person and start down a completely wrong path. And if you remove the suspect “facts” and search without them, you may end up with an avalanche of results that proves impossible to sort through. So make sure that wherever you start, you are starting accurately.
Get Immediate Buy-In
Kids need motivation. It takes something to grab their interest if you want them to commit to doing the project and doing it well. They won’t necessarily consider it to be enough if you tell them that you’re going to find out a bunch of names and dates.
You’ve got to tie it in to something that interests them, like travel. If your kids are dying to get out of the house this summer, inform them that the results of their genealogy research will help determine your destinations.
Talk with them about where they’d like to go. Guide them toward locations that you know could be pertinent to your family so that a summer trip to Pennsylvania will hold interest for them as more than just a series of libraries and cemeteries. Build their interest by promising ball games, a visit to the candy destinations in Hershey, or a stint of the Appalachian Trail in between genealogical stops.
Getting the project to a neat completion requires vigilance toward your promises and the project itself.
Kids don’t like to be shorted in any deal. You promise a ball game, they better get a ball game. It’s essential to make good on what you brought to the table in order to keep the kids engaged–and to have credibility the next time you cook up a big adventure.
But it’s not just about chocolate samples or a souvenir bat. Give them a final product for their work, too. Present each of them with a hard copy of the results of their research. They may not be all that interested now, but as we age, we all seem to gravitate toward a desire to know more of who we are. A day will come when they treasure a bound copy of their family history!
Family research is something that might not appeal to some kids right away, but just like every important activity, they will be fully committed if they can see a way that it can benefit and involve them. Make that plan and get started!