Tips for Getting Your Grandchildren Interested about Ancestry

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By Karen Vorbeck Williams

Grandparents are a wealth of information, passing stories of family history down to the younger generations. Unfortunately, this information often stays bottled up with the grandparent, just waiting to be mined. In fact, in this age of technology, sitting down to hear your grandfather tell stories about his time in the war, for example, can seem downright obsolete. Here’s how to compete in our over-wired society and keep the oral tradition alive and well in our grandchildren.

  • Start when they are young. My grandmother began in her rocking chair with me on her lap. It planted a seed that has stayed with me forever.
  • Discuss the most interesting ancestors. The pirates, Indians, witch trials and soldiers in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. The rich men and the poor, the brave settlers who crossed the prairie in covered wagons, the sheriffs and the outlaws.

  • Emphasize your grandchild’s role in the family’s history. Explain how your grandchild is part of the uniqueness of all these people who came before her and how she will carry that forward.
  • Time travel. Talk about what it would be like to go back for one day and see how a great-great-great-grandparent lived. Then turn it around and have the ancestor come and visit the world we live in today. What changes would they see?
  • Enlist the other side. Encourage them to ask their other grandparents to tell stories about the “olden days” and what they know about their ancestors. When they come back with facts about the other side of the family ancestry, let them help you begin a family tree.

Just remember, no matter how well you tell these stories, some children will not be interested. That’s ok – don’t push it. Once every other month is enough in the beginning. The time will come when they will ask to hear more stories.

An amateur historian and grandmother of four, Karen Vorbeck Williams spent 20 years researching and writing the story of her ancestors’ adventures settling the New World. She is the author of My Enemy’s Tears: The Witch of Northampton. www.MyEnemysTears.com..

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