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

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Intergenerational Self

If you read the genealogy blogs you may have run across mentions of Bruce Feiler's New York Times article this spring, "The Stories That Bind Us."  This article is based on his book "The Secrets of Happy Families" a book I can highly recommend--we've been using some of the principles in my family and they are working great.  Feiler's purpose in writing the book was to find "revolutionary ideas [that] remain ghettoized in their subcultures, where they are hidden from the people--the families--who need them most." (pg 5).  He wrote the book to popularize some of the most ground breaking research that is going on in what makes a family run well.  But one of the studies really resonated with me--the work of Marshall Duke and Robyn Fivush at the Center for Myth and Ritual in American Life at the Psychology Department of Emory University.

I've been researching out this topic and reading their paper, "The Intergenerational Self: Subjective Perspective and Family History."  Fivush, Duke, and Jennifer Bohanek write about their studies of middle class families.  First they recorded dinnertime conversations and analyzed how parents used stories about the family's past.  Then they gave the pre-adolescent children several well established psychological tests to determine their sense of well being and the "Do You Know Test" they developed with 20 questions about their family history.  They found that the children who scored the highest on the "Do You Know Test" scored higher in tests of self worth, a sense of being able to contribute to the world, and being in a well functioning family, lower levels of anxiety, more resiliance, and fewer behavioral problems.  In fact, as Feiler reported, "The Do You Know? Scale" turned out to be the best single predictor of children's emotional health and happiness." 

As my friend Amy Coffin wrote: "Boom, goes the science."  We knew it was true.  Now we have the science to prove it.

As of yet, it appears they have not been able to determine the causality of family history and the strong resilience it creates in family members.  But whether the strong family narrative creates strong families, or strong families are naturally inclined to talk alot about their family history, the result is the same.  Knowing about your family history is a quality of strong families that produce capable, strong children.

And, as I've been digging around, through MARIAL's work and through the references they refer to in their papers--there is so much more.  There is study after study about the effects of family history and "Intergenerational Transmission" and the way values and standards are passed from generation to generation.  I've got lots of reading to do.  I'll let you know what I find.  Let me know if you start any digging  yourself.  I think we are on to something really powerful here that may prove what genealogists have known for years--that family history is a soul satisfying, self-esteem strengthening, family bonding goldmine for creating healthy people.  

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Taking them with you

In March I had the wonderful opportunity to speak at the North Florida Genealogy Conference in Jackson.  What a great time we had. Our dear friends Alzina and Joel Warner took such great care of us.  I got to bring my daughter with me and we had a great trip together.  It was fun to have some mother daughter time together and it was so nice to get to know the Warners better.  The Warners absolutely spoiled us, taking us to the beach, and to St. Augustine.  It was a great trip.

And it was a wonderful conference.  I gave the keynote about Family Search Family Tree Friday evening and then gave three lectures on Saturday.  Sunday evening I spoke at an LDS fireside for youth.  That was where I think the greatest benefit for me came.  #1 I think my daughter was absolutely astounded that so many youth were actually anxious to listen to her mother.  and #2 My daughter had to sit and listen to me talk about all the benefits of family history and how easy it is to get involved.

The other great thing that came out of the fireside was the flash of inspiration I had.  I told the youth that I wasn't going to tell them how to do research--they already know how to get started.   I just asked them to get a picture of ancestor and put it out where they could see it in their room, and then tell their parents that instead of doing the dishes one night, they wanted to see if they could find more information about their grandparents or great-grandparents.  I think any parent would fall for that.  I certainly would.

I think that taking your youth with you when you teach is a great way to get the youth in your family involved with family history and I've heard other people say it worked for them too.  Just take them with you when you teach someone else how to search for their roots.  Be it the neighbor down the street, or across the country, letting them see other people excited about family history is a great thing. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

NextGen Genealogy Network

Take a moment and look at the facebook page for the NextGen Genealogy Network.  Great new organization to promote family history with the next generation. 

I'm sure the group will be a great place to get news and ideas.  Some of the recent links include: Three Keys to Involving the Younger Generation in Genealogy by Scott Phillips  and Stanford Magazine's History Detected by Theresa Johnston.  Lots to learn.  Together we'll figure out how to reorganize family history so that it is fun and attractive to the next generation. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Another even easier summer project--Family History Tablecloth

I've been keeping the kids quite busy this summer with family history projects.  They have been trying out activities that might work in your family and some of them have turned out really great.  This one was particularly easy and really useful--our family history tablecloth. 

It has given us lots to talk about when we have dinner together.  You could do all sorts of twists on this.  I have a collection of letters from my grandfather-in-law to my grandmother-in-law that I'm going to swap out in this tablecloth later.  The family dinner table is such a center to the home.  I find myself looking at it all day long.  What would work for a project like this in your home?  Let me know or send me a picture.  I can't wait to see how yours turns out. 

Subscribe to our YouTube channel at and you'll know when we have the next video done.  We're cooking up all sorts of good ideas.  Can't wait to show you.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Magnetic Family Tree Puzzle--An Easy Project To Do Together

My daughter and I have been working on some fun family history projects together.  Hopefully you already saw the 4th of July decorating we did together.  We've been working on some other YouTube videos to give you some activities that you can do with your children too. 

Take a look at how easy it is.  Send me a picture if you try it ok?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

How To Archive Family Keepsakes--Digital Wills

So I wrote a blog post over on The Chart Chick about my good friend Denise May Levenick's book How To Archive Family Keepsakes.  It is a really great book and I would highly recommend it for anyone who is concerned about protecting their family treasures for future generations.  But I also want to tell you about a particular chapter here that has to do with specifically making sure that your family information is organized and ready for your children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews.  It is chapter 5 "Organize for the Future."

In this chapter she gives you step by step instructions for planning your legacy.  And she has a wonderful form for creating a digital will.  Have you ever wondered what will happen to your online assets should something happen to you?  Who will know the passwords and who will take care of the pictures, blogs, genealogy information etc that you have out on the web?  This form will help you get that all organized. 

I love how Denise has written about standing back and really thinking about the theory behind how you are treating your family treasures.  She is very forward thinking in having you plan out what your goals are and what the future of these items will be.  Check out the book at Denise's website The Family Curator and read about all of the other suggestions she has for making sure your family gets to enjoy all of the treasures of their past.