Connect To The Youth In Your Family By Connecting Them To Their Family History

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Passing the Torch.

I can't tell you what a great day it was for me when the day for Matthew's big lecture came at RootsTech.  The genealogy community was fantastic.  The whole day they treated Matthew like a rock star.  So many people were congratulating him and telling him how wonderful it was that he was speaking.  Thanks to Drew Smith for interviewing Matthew for his Genealogy Guys podcast.  I have yet to hear what he said.  I'll post the link when it is available.

We prepared and prepared for this lecture and the best part was how much more Matthew learned about family history and the different ways there are to do things.  And once all the videos and slides were put together, he got to do some practice runs for youth groups organized by friends of mine.  (Thanks!)  But as we were walking in, I realized--if I hadn't before--how much it was entirely up to him now and I had no say in what was going to happen.  That moment when a mother lets them go...  And Matthew has decided to be the stand up comedian of Family History.  He had a couple of jokes in there that I was a little nervous about but we survived.  He talked about how if you use a picture of a potato with MyHeritage's face matching technology it doesn't work so well.  And he had a slide where he explained how on FamilySearch you are contributing to one big tree, but on Ancestry and My Heritage it was just your own tree.  He kept referring to the one big tree as being like communism.  Try as I might we couldn't find anything to replace that joke.  But it always gets big laughs and that works for him.  Even if I don't appreciate it so much.  At least he understands the concept I guess.

So the room filled with about 400 kids (twice) and HE NAILED IT!  He did so wonderful.  He went slowly enough, his audience stayed with him, and I think he really taught them something: the difference between a conclusion tree and actual sources, an introduction to what the three big sites offer, and search strategies for looking for real data about your ancestors. One lady wrote me an email afterward and said, "I recently attended several days of the RootsTech conference, and the class Matthew presented on finding your geezers was by far the best.  I brought my teenage daughter with me today for the youth event and this was the class she and I decided to attend together.  This one class was well worth the entire registration fee for the conference.  I cannot thank you enough for spelling out the similarities and differences in the various websites and their software.  Your class was clear and concise, humorous, and highlighted all the right areas.  Thank you for showing the ~how~ of finding ancestors, and making it accessible and understandable to my daughter." 

It was truly the biggest payday of my genealogical career.  So much more than anything I have accomplished, to see him so confident and knowledgeable about his own family history and how to do real research with real sources was so wonderful.  And that's what it is really all about isn't it?  As a mother, I truly feel that raising successful confident kids is the most important work I will do in my life.  And Family History is such a great tool for that.  In the weeks since the conference, I'm amazed at the peace and self-posession that has settled into him.  And our relationship throughout this process has improved 10 times over.  I don't think that is just because of the experience of the lecture--I really think it is largely because of the topic.  Family history work gives kids the self assurance of who they really are and what they can become.  And that is the greatest thing a Mom could ever hope for. This whole exercise has been very real proof in my life of the power of family history to strengthen youth and strengthen the family relationships they have.

Three years ago I brought my pre-teens to Rootstech and they were the only kids there. A couple of people even gave me a hard time about it. My how times have changed.  The crowds were wonderful at the conference this year.  I think the final count came in around 13,000 with about 4,000 of that being youth.  Kudos to FamilySearch for bringing this all about.  We passed out paper dolls at the booth from our new activity books.  It was crazy busy and so much fun.  I never even got a chance to get any good pictures around the conference.  But I did snap one of the booth.  Or the backs of the people at the booth anyway.  

Both of us with our speaker tags.
Oh yeah, and I lectured too.  I did my Leave a Heritage Workshop where we took time to brainstorm what family history assets each person has and who the transitional people were in their families.  Then we broke into groups and tried to figure out where those assets relate to the different ages of youth in our families.  It didn't quite go the way I wanted it to.  Try as I might we ran out of time.  It really needs to be a two hour workshop.  But the feedback I got was good.  I think it really gave people the time to think about what they want to purposely pass down.  And I know they left with a plan of action.  I developed a little worksheet for the class based on some of the Power Up Workbook pages.  Hopefully I'll get to use it again soon in another situation. 

And prizes.  One of the best parts of Matthew's presentation was the end where he gave away prizes.  He gave away a full set of RootsMagic products in each of the lectures, and My Heritage donated a full subscription, a set of their ancestor playing cards, and a My Heritage hoodie for each of his lectures as well.  Thanks to Bruce Buzbee and Daniel Horowitz for being so supportive of Matthew and being so excited about young genealogists.  I think prizes and more thinking outside of the box is important for getting youth involved.  We gave away some Family ChartMasters blank charts and gift cards too.  We're nothing if not supportive of efforts to help youth learn about their family history around here.  :)

Matthew has been scheduled to teach at another local family history fair in Pleasant Grove in March and at the Family History Conference in Ogden in September.  He has submitted to a couple of other conferences as well.  I've passed on a few of the conferences I usually do this year so that I can do some more development.  But he is taking up the torch.  Exactly how it should be. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Great Ideas from our readers

Yikes.  Where did the month go?  Life seems to be speeding up faster than I can keep up.  But it is good to be busy.  And I've got lots of new ideas to share with you.  So slow as they might be, keep your eyes peeled and I'll keep them coming. 

RootsTech was wonderful.  I've got several things to share with you about that.  But to start with, it was so great to meet with people who have been using our Zap The Grandma Gap resources and hear about the successes they are having in their families.  Here are a couple of great ideas we heard in the vendors hall:

One lady talked to me about having a contest on facebook to garner interest for the upcoming family reunion.  She had created a family facebook page and was going to ask one question a week.  The person with the most answers would win a prize at the family reunion.  I think you could also do this with a small prize every week.  I know I've seen situations where it amazes me what people will do for a package of M&Ms or a candy bar.  And the price of candy bar and shipping would be much once a week or once a month. 

Someone else talked about how she was going to start telling family history stories at bed time to her 1 year old son.  I think that is a wonderful way to start them young.  Kudos!

And another lady came up and told us that her 11 year old had decided to form a family history club with her friends on Saturday mornings.  They get together and bring pictures, make family recipes and learn about their ancestors.  Brilliant!  She wouldn't let mom help either.  That is excellent ownership. 

We passed out copies of the paper dolls from our new activity books.  And as we were passing them out, we reminded everyone that paper dolls is not only a great way to tell stories about your family, but they needed to utilize the time while they are coloring and cutting them out to tell stories as well.  Drawing pictures, or any kind of creative activity together is great story telling time.

Hope some of these ideas provide inspiration to you about activities to do with your family.  They sure do to me.  

Monday, February 3, 2014

Facebook to the rescue and Youth Family History Centers

We've worked really hard on Matthew's presentation for RootsTech and I know he has it down, but I've still been a little worried because--for crying out loud--he's only 15, and this would be a lot of pressure for some kids.  He is completely unruffled and not nervous at all.  But I thought I should get him a little more speaking experience before the big event if I could.  And Facebook came to the rescue.

I love the genealogy social networking crowd.  And they really came through for me this time.  I wrote a post asking if anyone had a youth group or family group that Matthew could practice on last week and several of my friends jumped at the opportunity to have someone young come and speak to their youth.  Thank You So Much!  We're looking forward to speaking for a couple of groups Sue Bankhead has arranged.  She has been so supportive and excited it has made us really excited too. 

On Thursday last week my friend Sue Maxwell had us come up to her new Family History Center designed entirely for youth.  So Awesome!  It has just been set up and they are planning to open it with just youth staffing it in the afternoons and evenings.  That is that "youth teaching youth" idea at work.  So So Cool!  Take a look at the pictures:

I told Matthew I wanted to move closer to that FHC :)

And by the way--someone mentioned on facebook that Matthew was "brainwashed" or being manipulated.  Like I said on Facebook, this kid won't do anything he doesn't want to do.  Just try making him get off the computer and go to bed.  I've thought about that some--with my books and with trying to help people involve their children in family history.  It isn't so much about manipulation, as about being a good parent or grandparent.  There are lots of things we do to teach our kids how to be happy in life.  This is just a really important one. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Teenagers teaching

I'm sure you've heard by now that my 15 year old son Matthew is teaching at RootsTech next week.  We are all so excited and proud of him.  He attended the youth activities last year.  He came away with a thirst for learning more about how to do it.  Over the next months I tried to get him involved in learning more at the conferences we attended but he didn't want to learn from the adults.  So when the call for papers for RootsTech came around, I said "Put your money where your mouth is."  If you want to learn from a kid, you have to be that kid.

We put together a proposal and his sense of humor came shining through.  He titled it "Get to Know Your Geezers."  He proposed that he teach about how to look for sources in three of the largest websites--FamilySearch, My Heritage, and Ancestry.  They accepted it and we were on our way.  He is teaching twice on Saturday and the youth portion of the conference is full with a waiting list.  It sounds like he could have upwards of 500 people in his courses.  He's not nervous at all-- but I am maybe a little. 

One thing that I really noticed last year was that the teens were all focused on their phones and their friends until a video was played in the lecture.  So we decided to make his presentation have lots of short videos.  That helps with the fact that he doesn't have alot of speaking experience too.  I think the videos we put together are really good.  Take a look:

We also went through and collected the best MyHeritage, FamilySearch, and Ancestry videos onto a website so that people could access them easily later. You can see them at Matthew's website.

I think teaching is a really great way to get a teenager involved.  I remember how much I thought I knew everything and how eager I was to tell everyone how to do things.  It is just an aspect of growing up.  And they always say that the teacher learns the most when they are preparing to teach.  I think that has been the case here.  Matthew has certainly been eager to learn much more than he will actually teach so that he can answer questions and etc.  I've been really impressed with the complexities that he has understood and his abililty to retain it all.

Oh, and by the way, I'm speaking too.  :)  And we are passing out free paper dolls in the vendor's hall.  We hope to see you there.  

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Disneyland and Intergenerational Transmission

We've just returned from a family history trip of sorts.  My parents and all of their descendants took off last week for a great trip together to celebrate their return from being abroad for the last 2.5 years.  It was a trick to get everyone's schedules aligned, but we did it--everyone got to come.  And the destination of course was Southern California where my mother grew up and where my Grandparents lived for most of their lives.  Mom and Dad you just finished your commitments away from our family..What are you going to do next?  We're going to Disneyland! 

Me and my little sister with Grandma
and Grandpa on Main Street
Disneyland runs deep in my family like I'm sure it does in many other families.  Once or twice a year when we went to visit my Maternal Grandparents, we always had to make the trip to Disneyland.  My Grandmother had Multiple Sclerosis and was in a wheelchair from the time I--the oldest grandaughter--started walking.  So for 30 years my parents visited as often as they could and supported and helped my grandparents as much as they could.  I'm not sure if it was gratitude for my parent's help, or if it was sheer grandfatherhood that made Grandpa take us to Disneyland every time we visited.  But we sure had fun. And as hard as I'm sure it must have been for them, they always came along.  I have such great memories of them there and now it seems like they are there with us.

Not with Uncle Ken,
but Dad and Jenn this time.
So we have long standing traditions at Disneyland.  The teacups has been my favorite forever because my Uncle Ken would take us and spin us so fast we couldn't hold our heads up at all.  (The pink one without the hearts is fastest--in case you didn't know.)  And it wasn't till I was quite a bit older that I figured out what a sordid tale the actual topic of the Pirates of the Caribbean was because growing up I just knew it was my Grandpa's favorite ride.  He would put his arm around me and sing "Yo Ho Yo Ho A Pirate's Life for Me."  Last week, with all of my parent's descendants together in the same boat we sang at the top of our lungs and it felt like Grandpa was there.

But get this:  One of our family's Disneyland traditions actually almost missed me.  Apparently, my sisters all buy churros when they come out of the Haunted House because Grandpa used to always buy them for us while he was waiting with Grandma while we went on the ride.  I do remember that--now that they mention it.  But I didn't have that memory as clearly as they did.  So--thanks to my sisters, I have a fun new tradition to honor my Grandfather with. 

Mom photobombing the teenagers--the next generation.
It made me think about what gets transmitted down and what doesn't.  I'm sure there are lots of families with traditions and folklore about Disneyland.  When I was little, they didn't allow food inside the park, but now they do and I suspect it is because there are families like ours that are going to pay $3.75 per churro or eat dinner at the Blue Bayou restaurant no matter what.  Transmitting those traditions are precious--no matter what the cost and it feels so good to be connected to the past and connected to your family.  Good memories are precious, precious things.

So this year we had the youngest (yet) grandchild graduate to where she could drive on the Autopia and she took Grandma for a ride.  I totally remember how cool that was!  And we had to get my sister who is pregnant and having trouble with her sciatic nerve a wheelchair--and though that wasn't fun, it was a real joy to push her around.  We didn't have any trouble finding someone to push her and I'm glad she didn't get a motorized wheelchair.  It was like having Grandma with us there again.  It also got us a great place to view the World of Color--just like we were always happy  to have handicapped parking in front of that old massive parking lot because of Grandma's wheelchair. 

At the beginning of the line at the Tower of Terror
And just for the record, my Mom's favorite ride is the Tower of Terror--not only because she loves roller coasters, but because it reminds her of the hotels in So Cal that her Grandmother used to take her to when she was a little girl.  So next time we visit, I'll remind everyone while we are waiting in line about that part of our family history.  And in line for Soaring over California, I'll keep reminding everyone about how my Grandfather was part of the beginnings of aviation in So Cal after World War II.  

I so love this family.  And I hope we can keep transmitting that down the generations most of all.  I think we were closer on this trip and the experience was deep and rich because of our shared history there. 

Here's our newest vacation tradition--movies made from an app on my sister's iPhone.  Now life comes with a soundtrack :)

Monday, January 27, 2014

Ca Ching

We've been running around like crazy around here with lots of things I promise to blog about this week.  But I had to share with you my happy dance for today.

My 15 year old son is speaking next week at RootsTech and today he had to write an unrelated paper for school today on "Why Family History Is Important" (In relation to the book The Giver.)  He said I could post it for you here.  We've worked and worked together on his RootsTech talk.  But he wrote this all by himself.  Take a look:

Why Family History is Important

I believe family history is important because it helps us understand where we came from and be confident because we can see what our ancestors did. My family runs a company that prints genealogy charts, so I am very I am very involved with family history, this year I am even going to teach a class about how youth can get started using online genealogy research sites at Rootstech, which is a huge conference hosted by FamilySearch.

My great great grandfather, John Hatten Carpenter, spent most of his life sending letters back and forth with people in England so he could do temple work for them (he was the first member of his family to join the LDS church.) He was able to complete his family history back to the 1200s. He was also the first one to move to America, which I thought was cool to learn about. When we went to England last year we went to see the farm he grew up on, and we also got to see lots of cool old documents, like old lamps and I got to hold an old will that was older than the Declaration of Independence, which was written on really thin leather. It was interesting to learn how they thinned the hide, there were dime sized holes in the leather, which it turns out were from mosquito bites before the leather was stretched.

Another reason family history is fun is because it can help you to understand the traditions you have today and why your family is the way it is. My grandpa went on his mission to Switzerland and we still do lots of stuff he learned when he was over there.

But the main reason I like to learn about my family history is that if you look enough you can find lots of really interesting stories. My grandpa has an old Edison amberola which he got from his grandpa. It is really interesting to see all the cool and old stuff they had back then, and how cool the stuff we have now is.

Learning about my family history has been a big part of my life and I am glad that I am able to access it so easily. I think other people should start to work on their genealogy if they haven’t already, because it is really worth it.
The End

I gave up long ago on having a "genealogist" for a child.  But I knew the importance of them knowing about their family history so I kept at it.  And look---it is starting to pay off!!  Happy Dancing Day.  

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Our Favorite Family New Year's Tradition

Sometimes, some of your best family traditions can start by accident.  One of our favorite traditions started that way, when I was an guilt-ridden, exhausted mother of young children--looking for a way to celebrate New Year's and get the kids to bed early.

Christmas is a crazy busy time for our company and several years ago, I felt bad that we hadn't been downtown yet to see the Christmas Lights at Temple Square.  The magic of all those tiny lights together were always one of my favorite parts of the holidays.  When New Year's came that year, I knew I had one more night before the lights were turned off and we'd have to wait until next year.  So we headed into town on New Year's Eve to see the lights.

I think I was honestly too tired to walk around and we ended upstairs in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building at the Garden Resturaunt overlooking the block just as the sun was setting and the lights were coming on.  It was beautiful to relax and watch as night fell over the city and the lights came on. The food was good, the kids were good and we discovered fried pickles.  This young mother discovered some peace during the busy holiday season.

So, at the risk creating a long wait at the restaurant, I recommend this tradition to you.  Over the years, we've stayed after dinner to catch some of the Eve traditions, concerts around Temple Square, or a carriage ride around town, but our favorite tradition has remained--dinner overlooking the lights as sun sets on the year.

This tradition is new to our generation, and I don't know that it will be passed down to future generations, but like all traditions, it has become a comfort in our lives--marking the passing of time and making us feel grounded together as a family.

Wishing you a hopeful and prosperous New Year.
Cross posted on the Visit Salt Lake Blog.