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
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?\"
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
2. What is your ethnicity (or what
country did your ancestors come from) on your father's side? On your
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?
6. Where and when did you get married?
How did you meet your spouse? How many children do you have? What are
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
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
20. What world events had the most impact
on you while you were growing up? Did any world events affect your
21. How were birthdays, holidays and
special occasions celebrated in your family? Did your family have any
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
25. What do you want people to remember
California Genealogical SocietyThe NGS Rubincam Youth Award