Posted by Jessica Latinović on October 9, 2014 in Website

Young boy with father and grandfather drawing with crayons at hoIn honor of Family History Month, we’re launching a four-part series for the month with ideas for sharing your passion for family history research with the little ones and young adults in your family. Each week, we will bring you a handful of different activities, with an emphasis on getting crafty and creative.

We hope you’ll treasure the moments you’ll be spending with the younger generations!

1. Cemetery Scavenger Hunt 

One thing my friends and family know about me, I love a good scavenger hunt. Why not try this on your next cemetery visit and make it a fun activity that your little ones can participate in?

Our own professional genealogist Crista Cowan likes to take her nephews on tours of her local cemeteries and provides them clues to find their own relatives. Once they discover the correct headstone, she shares who they were, how they’re related and meaningful stories she’s discovered about them. She’s now known among her nephews and nieces as the go-to person they can ask about their family history.

If you’re not sure how to get little ones involved, Climbing My Family Tree provides free printable scavenger hunts for little ones including a chart of symbols, which is helpful for those unable to read. For those older children, there is also a scavenger hunt with a more exhaustive list of symbols they can find around their nearest cemetery.

A trip to the cemetery is also a great opportunity to teach kids about the dos and don’ts of cemetery etiquette. As a reminder, always check with the local cemetery to see what rules they have that are specific to their property. We have a cemetery etiquette guide here as well. And of course, keep a close eye on children at the cemetery to make sure they don’t get injured. Don’t let them lean on markers that may be unsteady and watch for sunken spots and other hazards.

2. Genealogy Glossary

Most kids can easily describe their relation to cousins and grandparents but do they know what words like maternal, paternal or even the sometimes confusing abbreviations they may find common on headstones? Test their knowledge by asking them to describe how they’re related to certain family members and educate them on what words they might find common in family history research. Here’s a genealogical glossary to help you out.

3. Family History Bingo

This is one I plan to play with my 10-year-old sister over the holidays. We will invite my younger cousins to come over and join in the action. Create a bingo card with up to five columns and five rows. You can easily do more but be sure to make the card larger or better yet, make multiple bingo cards for multiple players! Then put the names of all pictured family members into a bowl and call out names until someone gets everyone in a row, column, or diagonally.

See this example here:

Family Bingo Card
Family Bingo Card

Some tips:

  • We recommend using close up photos so kids can easily make out who is in the photo and also make sure the photos at the same sizes like the example above.
  • Use coins, cereal, or round paper cut outs to use in lieu or bingo markers so you don’t ruin your beautiful cards.
  • Not especially savvy with designing bingo cards? Here’s a great family bingo template we found.
  • To really motivate the kiddos, make it a points or rewards based game where they win something at the end.

We hope you’ll find these ideas helpful and put them into action with your family. Please share your family’s take on these and other Family History Month activities in the comments section, or share a photo with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Happy Family History Month!

Jessica Latinović

Jessica serves as U.S. Social Media Manager for Ancestry.

6 Comments

  1. Ellen

    Any suggestions for introducing genealogy to kids you aren’t related to? My middle school students have heard a little about my hobby and have asked me to start a club to teach them about genealogy but I’m not sure where to begin, especially in a school with many first generation immigrants from Asia. But I’m happy they are interested in their families and I want to teach some basic research skills. I’d love any ideas!

  2. Barbara

    Research starts at home! Make a list of questions they can ask parents & grandparents. Where & when they were born. Siblings. When were they married, children, etc. Have them bring in photos and make a family tree (would make a nice holiday gift project). Teach them how to be detectives… searching newspapers and free web resources for family names and connections. Keep a journal! Interview family members & take notes of all the stories they tell. Record the oldest person in your family telling stories of their childhood. Wish someone had told me of the FUN and ADVENTURE of genealogy when I was a youngster! What an awesome opportunity you have Ellen!!!

  3. catherine cline

    When I took my grandchildren , ages 6 and 7, on a genealogy trip ( so his mother could paint inside the house without his “help”) I got each a map of the whole Southeast and plotted out with a marker where we were going so they could see how far it was until we stopped for the night. It taught them a basic idea of the size and shape of the states we went through as well as how to real the mile markers. We stopped at each Welcome station as we crossed state lines. I took pictures and bought postcars of sites along the way and made them into a trip scrapbook as a keepsake for each one. They know who their ancestors were because they read their tombstones and the map and roadside markers themselves. It was fun and quite a learning experience for us all.

  4. Terri Hildreth

    Last Thanksgiving my 4 & 7 yr old grandchildren chose ancestor’s photos from my computer file, printed them out, cut & pasted them into a small (4×6) inexpensive scrap-type book from the Dollar store. Then we wrote b/d dates on each page, and how they were related (Betsy Smith is Grace’s g-grandmother on her mother’s side). The kids chose the pictures they liked and put them in the book however they wanted, so neither is in any kind of genealogical order, but it’s THEIR book. Had great fun. This year, I think we’ll fill out pedigree charts and I’ll pre-print pictures for them to paste on. Shoud be fun.

  5. Keith Davis

    I have an afterschool Technology club for 4th and 5th grade students. Right now we are working on a genealogy project. I am showing them how to plot a 5 generation chart on microsoft excel then will teach them how fill it in. Lots of fun!

  6. Mary B. Morgan

    Is it possible to forward the Creative Ways to Work with children on their Family Tree to parts of ones family in other parts of the US? It appears to me this is a way to get adults interested in family genealogy also.

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