17/05/2017
Share this story Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

How to do a family tree with children

467d1734-95dc-43a0-b0e5-865f765dc533

Start a family tree with the children in your life with our expert guide to encouraging kids to get into genealogy.

Although family history is traditionally seen as a hobby for adults, there are many different ways to involved children in tracing their ancestors and finding out more about the family’s history. After all, as adult researchers, we’re basically acting as detectives in finding out more about our ancestors and this curiosity about the past is a good way to draw children into the story of their family.

Join the Family Tree community  
Follow us on facebook
Follow us on twitter
Sign up for our free e-newsletter
Discover Family Tree magazine

Think back to your own childhood and chances are, you might have enjoyed hearing stories about your parents’ and grandparents’ own childhood. Choosing stories from your own past can be a great way to start a family tree conversation with your child.

Getting your child into genealogy

Once you’ve had a chat about your own childhood, show your child some photos of your own parents and grandparents, explaining that these are their ancestors. This is a great, visual way to begin a family tree with a child; including their name and photo at the bottom of a family tree chart and building the story from there.

You can start the tree very simply by explaining the maternal and paternal sides of a family tree. Then, explain to your child that these are the facts you’ve found about some of their ancestors and you’d like their help to discover the missing parts of the puzzle.

Building the family tree

Once you’ve got the basic tree sketched, decide with your child which ancestor you’d like to concentrate on and make an adventure of starting a scavenger hunt for clues about that person. You could search the attic for family photos, look through boxes of documents you’ve gathered for your own research, or even visit the graveyard where that ancestor’s buried; activities such as tombstone rubbing can really bring history to life.

Older children might want to help with computer-based research or thinking up questions they could ask relatives about the ancestor in question. You could even tie in some of your work to school history projects.

Don’t necessarily approach the task as you would your own research, instead think about how it can appeal to the child in question. Dates may be less relevant here than they would be to you; if you’re hoping this might become a long-term interest, then concentrate on the social history side of things and tie this into the child’s interests – for example, a youngster interested in fashion might like to find out about the clothes their great-grandmother would have worn, or a computer battle game enthusiast could be interested in hearing about an ancestor’s military service.

Presenting the family tree as a project

Once you’ve discovered more facts and followed up any clues, ask your child for their help in putting together the family’s story. Be open minded about how this is presented – might a timeline or memory box work instead of, or alongside, a traditional family tree? Older children may even be able to help put together a newsletter for relatives, or a video blog.

Top tips for family history with children

  • Don’t forget to tell stories of your own childhood
  • Be open-minded about how the work progresses
  • Don’t just stick to names and dates – flesh out the story

Genealogy websites

The Acorn Club, run by Devon Family History Society, welcomes young family tree enthusiasts from anywhere in the UK. 

Family history activities for children from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

 

 

 

 

 

(Image copyright D Sharon Pruitt)

Back to "Next steps" Category

17/05/2017 Share this story   Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

Recent Updates

What is family history? The alternative guide – review, review and review again

What if missing family history information is already at your fingertips? In the latest in our blog series, ...


DNA leap forward - GEDmatch leads the way

GEDmatch has announced that the most important advance in years for genealogical DNA is currently in beta ...


Living DNA – take a DNA ancestry test and discover your roots

Find out what a Living DNA test can reveal about your family history, as you discover your origins and find ...


How to make a memory box - 60-second video guide

In our latest genealogy video, Family Tree editor Helen Tovey presents a one-minute guide to creating a ...


Other Articles

Genealogy research – a step by step guide to making the most of your family tree – part 4

In part 4 of our series, genealogy expert Mary Evans offers some ideas for tracking down specialist family ...


Top baby names since 1904 - interactive graphic of most popular 100 names

Explore the 100 most popular baby names for boys and girls in England and Wales, from 1904 to the present day. ...


Understanding Your DNA Genealogy Test Results

How can a DNA test help you find your roots and explore your family tree? DNAAdoption present a guide on ...


Your lousy First World War ancestors

The health and hygiene conditions endured by our Great War ancestors serving out in the Middle East may have ...