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

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Decorating Boredom Buster

Yes, you read that correctly. It is entirely possible to give your children a boredom busting activity this summer that you will actually want to decorate the walls with later on. And what I mean by that is there will be nary a piece of glitter in sight. Save that stuff for your fridge and keepsake boxes. This idea will demand a prime display spot in your entryway or sitting room.

This idea comes from Brigitte. While the article is in German, I think we can all get the idea of it just based on the pictures. Family pictures printed onto canvas, placed into embroidery hoops, and then accented with colorful embroidery stitches. Tweak this one to use family history pictures and  you could create some beautiful new masterpieces. How cool is that? As you can see, they are simple cross-stitches and because your children will not have to follow a pattern, their imaginations can run a little wild. How great would this look in your house? Or what about as gift ideas for grandparents far away? I can just see the buttons busting from pride over the fact that a grandchild embroidered something for them. The fact that it is also a lovely decoration is just an added bonus.

The next time you hear, “I’m bored,” try busting out this activity and have some fun. It’s short enough to keep your child’s attention span but interesting enough to engage him or her into learning a new skill. Perhaps it will even start your child onto a new hobby path, too. Winning all around with this one.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Interview With a Grandchild

With summertime here and family gatherings more plentiful on the horizon, I have been thinking of ways to foster family bonding before, during, and after all of the wonderful gatherings that are most certainly happening these days. I came across a pin on Pinterest that I liked but wanted to tweak a bit. This idea tends to fall under the “scrapbooking” category if left as-is, but I think there is an excellent opportunity for multi-generational bonding if we take some time to think outside of the box. Why not take this “interview,” that is intended to snapshot a particular age and stage of a child, and create a bonding moment with it? Naturally, inputting the Q&A and a few pictures into a computer and creating a cute layout is an added bonus, but the real “meat” of the experiment is to open up some communication opportunities.

I think you could turn the tables on a Grandparent interview.  Instead of the youth interviewing the ancestor, what if a grandparent interviewed them?

 What if Grandma or Grandpa—or both!—created questions to ask their grandchildren? And then what if they called their grandchildren individually, or sat with them at the next visits, and just asked the questions? It doesn’t have to be formal, although some children might appreciate an serious let-me-ask-you-everything-about-yourself type of experience. Just talk. Write down their answers if possible, or at least as soon as you possibly can later on. Take a picture of the child and then a picture you and the child together. This would make for great “selfie” practice; just ask any child over the age of 18 months, they’ll teach you the art of it. This could be a chance to create wonderful dialogue for grandparents and grandchildren that hopefully will lead to some curiosity on the part of the children. Grandparents can even lead with a few things like, “You like video games? I wish I had something like that at your age. We just kicked a can and ran.” Even the most digitally savvy child will consider asking a follow-up question to that one! The point of the activity is nothing more or less than talking, bonding, and learning new things about each other. But, since we’re all genealogists here, recording it will just be a natural reflex for us. It will also serve as a great reminder of the experience a few years down the road.

 So, what are you waiting for? Go find someone to interview!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Names...They're Kind of a Big Deal

Having an identity is a critical need in the human condition. We all want to know how we fit into the general scheme of this world. Exploring our names is a great place to start on our quest for personal understanding. Maybe you have the type of family that discusses this sort of thing openly, and often. But let's say you don't. What a fantastic conversation starter you have for the next family gathering you attend. Asking about names can be a pretty simple gateway into the world of family reminiscing and bonding.

Maybe you've been feeling the friction with a tween or teen in your household. This can be a sign that your child is simply trying to figure out who they really are. More than likely, the internal clash of growing up and staying safe are throwing your child into the deep end of the pool without a life vest. As a parent, wouldn't you take any chance you could to casually slip a flotation device under your child? A casual conversation about how her name came to you could have the power to buoy her up on a day when treading water is just too hard. Maybe knowing that you found meaning and purpose behind a specific name will help him see that you really were invested in him long before he was placed in your arms. Who knows the possible effects a "This is how you got your name" conversation could have on your child, now or decades from now.

 Maybe you're reading this and thinking, "But you don't live with my family. That kind of conversation would never happen with my kids. I have no idea where to start!"  Well, I have some help for you.  First, have you told them how you picked out their first name?  Start there.  Then, beyond that, I have help for you in my book, Zap the Grandma Gap.  It has an entire section devoted to learning about given names and surnames. The suggestions contained within a few pages throw a pretty powerful punch.  There are too many resources to list here but some that I have in the book include a website resource for surname research and I also talk about discovering meanings, coats of arms, and tapping into family organizations to get the ball rolling. Can you imagine saying to a surly teen, "Do you want to see what I found online today? Our family crest! How cool is that?" Even the most grumpy kid can't help but get a little excited about a symbol devoted solely to defining their name. Am I right?

Take the time this week to have a conversation with your family members about names.  What they mean, how they came to be, and what you think about all of that.  It will be one of your most meaningful experiences this week if you do.  I can almost guarantee it.

Friday, July 18, 2014

This Way Be Treasure… Arrr!

Look at this great idea I just found the other day and pinned to my Youth and Genealogy Pinterest Board. A Family History Treasure Hunt from Homemaking With Heart. I love this! The idea is that the next time you go to spend time with an older relative, create a treasure hunt for the children to complete while they visit. You may want to call ahead and arrange this with whomever you may be visiting, just to make sure everyone agrees to having the homestead looked over. Some of the ideas she gives for searchable items are really amazing and they have the potential to create fun story-telling opportunities. She lists things above and beyond the typical family photos, such as: quilts and old clothing, letters/correspondence, family bibles, trophies, old toys, and the list goes on. Can you imagine the fun children could have with a grandparent’s old yearbook?

 You could even take this treasure hunt one step further by introducing it at a family reunion. I once heard of a family who split everyone up into teams (every age group represented on every team). Each team was given a list and a digital camera and sent off with a time limit. The goal was to record digitally as many things as possible on the teams’ cameras. I heard this family travelled to gravesides and old homesteads local to the reunion. It was a highlight of the reunion for the family that year.

Our extended families are a treasure trove to our past. By learning more about them, we will learn more about ourselves. Creating a game for the discovery is a brilliant idea to draw children into family history without them even realizing it. All the children will know is that they’re having fun and discovering treasures from long-ago. Dressing up and speaking like pirates is optional, but the fun will be guaranteed. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Another Great Family History Activity

game This spring I found a fun new game that our family has enjoyed and your family might as well.  Your Family Tree--the Game has great questions that have gotten us talking about our history together.  My family has had some great conversations because of this game so I had to tell you about it. 

Your Family Tree--the GAME brings families around the kitchen table to have fun with family history and to share insights and stories with each other.  Roll the dice, move your game pawn up the branches and down the roots, and enjoy learning about each other.  Four categories of questions:  Your Family, Your Ancestors, About You, and Nice to Know.  This game will bring your family together to share things that really matter.  All ages can enjoy this game together.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Zap the Grandma Gap Mother's Day Special--all 6 books for $60

Perfect for Mothers and Grandmothers. 

Zap The Grandma Gap Books We have a great idea for the Mothers and Grandmothers in your life this Mother's Day. Help them teach their families about the family's history and pass down a strong legacy to their children.  These books are perfect for helping mothers strengthen their children with their family history.  And they are great for anyone who wants to help their family have stronger bonds to their past.    

So we've put together a special Mother's Day sale.  You can get all 6 books for only $60 + shipping.

Studies have proven that greater knowledge about family history strengthens and empowers youth. This knowledge creates self-esteem, resilience and a greater sense of control over their lives. Learning about the family's past also strengthens the relationships between living family members by creating a shared experience and core identity that no one else in the world can duplicate.  These activity books are designed to help you inspire and strengthen the children in your family and build your relationship with them.   Click here to order them now so they will arrive in time to wrap them up for Mother's Day.   

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.