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August Miller, Deseret News
A child works on a pedigree chart at Kids Camp at National Genealogical Society's conference.


Everyone has one — it's a combination of

the culture, traditions and genetic traits that came from your


Learning as much as you can about your

heritage and learning it as early as possible can have a big impact on

your life, says the National Genealogical Society.

In a publication geared to children, the

society points out, \"Learning about your ancestors will help you

discover things about yourself and help you understand more about

society and the world. As you hunt for information about them, you will

see how their efforts laid the foundation for you. When you see how they

handled the challenges they faced in the past, you may feel better

prepared to face challenges in your own life.\"

Encouraging an early interest in family

history was the purpose behind the Genealogy Kids Camp that was held as

part of the recent National Genealogical Society conference held in Salt

Lake City.

Kids Camp was started by the Southern

California Genealogy Jamboree, said Charlotte Bocage, program director

for that group. \"We tried it out there, and by the second year, it just


\"We want to inspire kids to start asking

questions about their family history,\" she said. \"Otherwise, they may

lose a chapter in their book of life. I still have things that I wish I

had asked my mom before it was too late. I still don't know who all her

brothers and sisters are. If I knew when I was younger what I know now,

there are so many questions I would have asked.\"

When Julie Miller, program chair for the

Salt Lake Conference, heard about Kids Camp, she thought it should be

part of the national convention. \"This is our first Kids Camp,\" she

said, but she hopes it won't be the last.

\"There are many fun ways for kids to get

involved,\" she said. \"To encourage that, NGS established the Rubincam

Youth Award to reward their efforts. Youths are the next generation of

family historians. We need them.\"

Kids Camp began with an introduction to

what genealogy is all about: ancestors, descendants, family trees.

\"It's like a puzzle with interesting

pieces that all fit together,\" said camp director Jennifer Shaw.

\"Genealogy is not just names and dates; it's about who these people were

and how they lived. Our ancestors have stories that tell us why we do

some of the things we do.\"

Even simple things can be interesting,

she said. \"How much do you spend for a candy bar? How often do you go

out to eat? Those answers are very different for your grandparents than

they are for you.\"

There are lots of advantages in starting

early, Shaw said. \"You are young; you are lucky. Most of you still have

grandparents and even great grand-parents. Ask them questions.\"

Plan out interviews

with your parents and grandparents, she advised. Write down a list of

questions. Bring along pictures or documents to help jog their memories.

Listen to and record what they say. Ask more than one person about

particular events. \"You might get a different story. Also ask the same

questions at another time; you might get more details after they've

thought about it.\"

Another important tip, she said: \"Write

down where you got the information, the day and place you did your


Jean Wilcox Hibben, who bills herself as

\"genealogist, folklorist, national speaker, troubadour and educator\"

also sang and talked about family history. \"A lot of songs were used to

tell history,\" she said. Learn about the folk songs your ancestors sang,

she advised; it's a fun way to learn some history.

Also learn family stories, she said.

\"When we went to bed, my mother not only read us nursery rhymes, she

told us 'Rex' stories. Now, Rex was just about the greatest dog in whole

world. Mom would make us tuna casserole with noodles and peas, and Rex

would lick everything off and leave a pile of peas. It didn't work when I

tried it, but Rex could get away with it. Grandfather would take Rex

with him to the druggist/ice cream parlor. Rex would go from table to

table and do tricks and get ice cream. That didn't work for me, either.\"

But Hibben's favorite Rex story was that

her grandfather would open the mail and throw the envelopes to Rex to

play with and tear to pieces. \"One time he threw Rex an envelope, but

Rex wouldn't play with it. Grandfather finally looked at it, and there

was a check inside that he didn't know was there.\"

Everyone has those kinds of stories, she

told the kids, and in fact, she had them share some of their own.

There were stories of a girl who dropped a

flashlight in an outdoor bathroom pit at camp and her father held her

by the feet and lowered her down to get the flashlight; of a boy who put

on a wig and a dress and entered a rodeo queen contest — and won; of a

girl who tried to fly by jumping out of a treehouse with an umbrella; of

a boy who wanted to dangle his feet off the edge of a hay wagon, but

when he stood up to move to the edge, \"I flew off and landed in the cow


Write those stories down, said Hibben.

\"Right now, they seem really clear in your mind, but years from now, you

might not remember.\"

Earlier at the genealogical conference,

author and historian David McCullough also talked about the importance

of teaching kids family history and history in general. He learned what a

poor job we are doing of teaching history, he said, when a California

college student asked him, \"Other than John Adams and President (Harry

S.) Truman, how many presidents have you interviewed?\"

Learning history

begins at home, he said. \"When I was young, every night my father would

come home, and we'd sit around the dinner table. We talked of the

history of Pittsburgh. We talked about the history of our family.\"

History is not just military events and

politics, said McCullough. \"It is human beings, and it's anything buy

dry, dull and tedious. We've got to show our children and grandchildren

how much we care about it. What matters most is attitude, and that is

not taught; it is caught. Learn about what you love, and then share that

love.\" Family history, he said, is a great place to start.

After all, it's your heritage. That's

also what the National Genealogical Society wants kids to know, and

this, as well:

Deep in the past lie the roots of today.From our distant beginning, we grow to

form the future.

Learn about your ancestors, so you can


Their joys and dreams,

Their struggles and sacrifices,

The great and simple things they did so


You can live today.

They are your heritage.

Here you stand, in the promise of the


What great tree will grow from your life?

To encourage and recognize the next

generation of family historians, the National Genealogical Society has

established the Rubincam Youth Award. Students are invited to submit

original, written biographies and genealogies in two categories: seniors

— in grades 10 to 12 or between the ages of 16 and 18; and junior — in

grades 7 to 9 or between the ages of 13 and 15. They need not be members

of the National Genealogical Society. The winners receive a plaque, NGS

Home Study Course and a one-year membership to NGS. The senior winner

also receives a $500 cash award.

The next deadline is Jan. 31, 2011.

For more information and details on

submitting an entry, go to www.ngsgenealogy.org; click on competitions, then on

Rubincam Youth Award.

25 questions to ask your

parents and/or grandparents and/or great-grandparents:

1. Does your family surname have any

special meaning?

2. What is your ethnicity (or what

country did your ancestors come from) on your father's side? On your

mother's side?

3. What is your full name? Why did your

parent select this name for you? Do you have a nickname? Is there a

naming tradition in your family?

4. Where and when were you born? How did

your family come to live where you were born?

5. What is the full name of your spouse?

Siblings? Parents?

6. Where and when did you get married?

How did you meet your spouse? How many children do you have? What are

their names?

7. What was the

house, apartment, farm where you grew up like? How many rooms? Did it

have electricity, indoor plumbing, electricity?

8. Were there any special items in the

house that you remember?

9. What is your earliest childhood


10. What kind of games did you play

growing up?

11. What was your favorite toy and why?

12. Did you have family chores? What were

they? Which was your least favorite?

13. Did you receive an allowance? How

much? Did you save some of your money or spend it?

14. What was school like as a child? What

were your best and worst subjects? Where did you attend grade school?

High school? College?

15. In what school activities did you


16. Who were your childhood heroes?

17. What were your favorite songs and


18. Did you have any pets? If so, what

kind, and what were their names?

19. Who were your friends when you were

growing up?

20. What world events had the most impact

on you while you were growing up? Did any world events affect your

family personally?

21. How were birthdays, holidays and

special occasions celebrated in your family? Did your family have any

special traditions?

22. Who was the oldest relative you

remember as a child? What do you remember about them?

23. Are there any family stories about

famous or infamous relatives in your family?

24. What accomplishments are you most

proud of?

25. What do you want people to remember

about you?

Source: Southern

California Genealogical SocietyThe NGS Rubincam Youth Award