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Child Detectives: How to get your Kids on the Hunt

Child Detectives: How to get your Kids on the Hunt for Ancestors

There can be no better activity to do with your child than tracing your genealogy-after all, the connection from one generation to the next is what your research is about! Kids as young as 5 can start learning about their family history and many even surprise you with the help they provide or the new ideas they have. By working on the project together, you can teach your children about their ancestors and create a keepsake that can be passed on to them when they are older.

Begin with what you already know. The easiest way to get started is my filling out what researchers call family information sheets. These can be printed from the Internet and usually include full name, birth date, death date, parents, hometown, spouse, children, and other vital information. First, have your child help you fill one out about yourself, your spouse, and him or herself and any siblings. Make it a game-what does your child know? For example, can your child give you his or her sister's birth date? Tell your child funny stories pertaining to the information, such as details about your wedding or what your hometown was like when you were growing up. Of course, not every child will be interested in hearing about this, so don't make yours listen if he or she would rather be doing something else. However, many children will surprise you with their interest. Be prepared for lots of questions. Get your parents or other older family members involved as well if possible. Oral history is vital to genealogy, not so much for research purposes, but to ensure that your family history stays alive with each generation.

When your child gets a little older, you can take him or her to the library with you to do some research. Kids like finding out about their family crests and surname meanings, and learning to use a library is an important skill that kids should learn at a young age. As they mature, kids can accompany you on other field trips as well, such as to family plots in the cemetery, to the records department at your local courthouse, or to virtual destinations on the Internet to help you find your ancestors. By learning research skills, your child will develop an interest in genealogy that might last a lifetime. When your research is done, have your child help you put together a family tree or other family history project that can be passed on to them when they have a family of their own.

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