Creating a Family Tree as a Family Project
A guest blog by Suzie Kolber, ObituariesHelp.org
A fun activity that you can do together as a family is a family tree project. Tracing your history ancestry is an educational experience and one that helps your kids develop a sense of roots and belonging. By visiting the past, you can prepare them for the future. While this may seem like a big challenge to tackle, it can be quite easy if you follow a few pointers.
Consider Your Kids’ Ages
First, think about how old your kids are to determine how in-depth you want to go with your research. The older your kids are, the farther back in your history you can go. For kids around preschool or early elementary age, you will want to limit the information to only the past two or three generations and keep things simple.
For example, if your child’s grandparents are living, you may want to include the names of their parents. Any farther back and your little one won’t understand the relationships.
As your kids get older, you can trace your lineage farther back. In fact, if your kids are into history, they may enjoy learning about family members who were alive during the Civil War and before. It can bring these stories to life for them.
Consider Visual Aids
While you may want to scan old newspapers and court documents to find out names and dates of your ancestors, kids often learn better with visual aids. Consider using a family tree template to record your information.
You can find a variety of styles to fit the ages of your kids and your individual needs. For example, some templates use actual trees with the branches listing family member names. Young kids will enjoy this option and help them understand the concept of “family tree.” (Editor's note: The printable chart example shown here is from the website mentioned at the end of this article.) Older kids may prefer an elegant design that can be framed when the project is complete.
These templates provide choices for how many generations you want to include. Something simple like the three-generational or four-generational family tree is ideal for the younger kids. Older kids will enjoy the ten- and twelve-generational charts if they want to find a lot of information about their history.
Begin with History
While it is common to begin with present family members and work your way back, you don’t have to follow this method. If you have a famous (or infamous) ancestor in your lineage, begin with that person. Work your way backward or forward based on how much information you can find. For kids, it can be a lot more interesting to study about people they have read about than someone obscure from history.
Don’t get stuck trying to find a person with little to no information. Kids gets bored easily, so skip over great-great-great grandfather John if you can’t find anything about him. It is okay to leave a few blanks on your family tree template. The focus should be on helping your kids learn about their past and making it fun. Tracing family history can be a wonderful learning and bonding experience for parents and their kids.
Suzie Kolber created http://obituarieshelp.org/free_printable_blank_family_tree.html to be the complete online resource for "do it yourself" genealogy projects. The site has a large offering of family tree charts online. The site is a not-for-profit website dedicated to offering free resources for those that are trying to trace their family history.