Monday, June 27, 2011

Family History

My dad has been researching our family history since I was little. He has traced our lineage back hundreds of years and across the ocean before our ancestors came to America. When I got married and moved away to a new state far away from any relatives, I found myself feeling very disconnected from my family.

From then on, when I would go home to visit, I found myself wanting to learn more about my family, where other more distant family members were living now, and I had a new appreciation for those old stories my parents have told me over my lifetime. You know, those old stories about family members I've never met and how much harder life was when my parents were young when they didn't have all of today's amenities.

As I started actually paying attention to these stories, I became interested in learning more about who these people were and how I was related to them. My dad would draw out basic family tree structures which showed how various people were related to each other. Knowing who the people were that these stories were about added so much color to my impression of my family. It made me proud of who I was and what my ancestors had done to help in various wars and other achievements that helped our country or even just our family progress and succeed throughout history.

I only wish that I had learned more about my family at a younger age so that I could appreciate those stories from my grandmother who has now passed away. It is so important to take the time to talk to family members and preserve the family history because otherwise their stories will die with them.

I was very excited to see that there is a Cub Scout Belt Loop and Pin award for reseraching Heritages. I had not actually thought of talking to Nicholas yet about our family history and who his ancestors were but then again, why not?

We started with a trip to our library. You can find everything at the library! We found several books about family history written on a child's level so that they were easy to understand.



I decided to just start with a very basic family tree of four generations - Nicholas, parents, grandparents, and his great grandparents. I found pictures of everyone and printed them in a thumbnail size but you could just cut out the faces from any size picture that you already have printed. I got some 12x12 cardstock, tape, and a marker.



I explained to Nicholas how the term "family tree" works well for researching family history because of the many branches in the family that come from a single trunk. Nicholas cut out a tree form from the green and brown paper.



We cut out all of the faces for our project then Nicholas started placing them on his tree. He started with himself and Rachel and easily placed most of the other faces in their proper places on the tree. He either hasn't met or doesn't remember much about his great grandparents so he needed help with those. He also had trouble when working with some of the maiden names that he has never heard of.



He had fun placing all of the faces in place. He said it was just like a puzzle. Wow! He's only 7 and he already has a basic understanding of why I have so much fun researching our history. It's really just the ultimate puzzle with answers to be found all over the world in all different periods of time.

We added the lines to show the relationships for all the people. Nicholas is much more proud of his project than I had expected.



Nicholas couldn't wait to show off his family tree. We got on a Skype call with my dad and Nicholas showed him the tree. They started talking about the people and my dad shared more stories about the people in the pictures and what life was like when he was little.



I could see Nicholas getting excited and actually interested in those stories that he might usually have just brushed off. I'm so glad that we took some time to introduce him to this fascinating part of his history.

To get started tracing your family tree back, ask your family some basic questions about names, dates, and places of your ancestors. There are so many incredible resources available to make it easy to fill in more gaps of your story with just a little bit of information. Libraries are great resources. Many have special genealogy sections with printed family histories and census records. You can also check court houses for birth/marriage/death records as well as land deeds to learn more about your family.

In addition, there are also plenty of websites to help do family history research online. Here are a few that I've used in the past.

National Archives
Family Tree ResearchAncestry.com
Researching Your Family Tree

Take time now to learn about your family history and help preserve it so that future generations will be able to learn about it as well.

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