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

Saturday, March 30, 2013

My final take away from the youth activities at RootsTech

So as I've been putting these last blog posts together and talking to my kids about what they thought about the youth classes at RootsTech I've learned two things. 

1. One and possibly two of my teenagers have been to enough presentations about how great family history is for youth and how they should get involved.  They are actually curious and looking for more instruction about how to do research. They've googled and such but I'm hearing a little more curiosity about where the good resources are. 

2.  My teenagers don't want to listen to adults teach them about how to do research.  There is some kind of disconnect there.  My kids go to lots of genealogy conferences, but I don't think they're all that excited about going to classes.  I'm going to try again at the upcoming UGA South Davis Family History Fair in a couple of weeks but in general I don't think they want to listen to the adults. 

So.  I just proposed to my son that if he would sit down with me one on one and learn a little more, maybe he should develop some courses that he could submit to conferences for teaching youth.  I think if he would rather go to a class taught by a teenager, maybe he could be talked into teaching other teenagers. 

Hmmmm.  I'll let you know how it goes. 

Elaine Dalton's Devotional at RootsTech

So the whole family got to go see Elaine Dalton's devotional at RootsTech last weekend.  It was great for us that the exhibitor's hall closed so early in the afternoon.  We were able to get everything packed up, go have a nice dinner together and listen to my teenagers talk about the sessions they went to in the afternoon, and then all go together to listen to the devotional.  It was some great family time together--a sweet benefit to doing family history together.  As always, Family History strengthens those bonds between family members. 

I knew we were in for a treat.  Elaine Dalton is a wonderful, genuine, beautiful lady.  She holds the calling in the LDS church of the general leader over all LDS Young Women ages 12-18.  She is called the Young Women's General President.  As such, she travels all over the world speaking to youth groups.  I was very honored a couple of weeks ago when she sent me a personal letter saying that she loved my Zap The Grandma Gap books and that she would be using them with her grandchildren.  I know she is busy, but I know family history and her own family are very important to her.

She compared the almost two thousand youth in attendance to the 2,000 Stripling Warriors.  In the Book of Mormon (considered as scripture to the LDS church) there is a story about 2,000 young men who fought to save their families.  In the story, the families of the young men had lived for generations at war with the people of God.  When their parents were converted to the truth, they made an oath to never take up weapons again in pennance for their past wrongs.  Many of the fathers of these 2,000 young men were killed by their enemies because they were true to their oath and wouldn't go back to fighting.  What was left of their community--mostly the young children and their mothers--went to live with other people who shared their same faith in God.  Their new neighbors knew of the oath and wanted to support their commitment to God.  The new neighbors promised to protect them in the continual wars that were going on.  But as the years went on, the wars were increasingly severe and it took a great toll on the people.  When their survival was at stake, 2,000 of their young men--young enough that they had not taken the oath that their parents had taken--offered to go to war to protect their families.  They chose a prophet to be their leader and they went out to fight.  The book says "they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them."  These 2,000 young men were then protected and not one of them lost their lives in the fighting.  They proved crucial to winning the war.

I thought this was a brilliant analogy and I was so moved sitting in the middle of all these teenagers listening to her talk.  Like I write in the books, I honestly believe family history could save the world from so many of the social ills that we see today.  I believe it helps young people have the scaffolding to grow up to be strong, purposeful adults with a healthy sense of self.  I believe it saves families.  And as young people today get involved in family history it does save their families.  As the New York Times, the Huffington Post and etc have been talking about as of late--family history--having that family narrative is a strong team building exercise that is the strongest thing you can use to create good relationships in your family.

Sister Dalton was very forthright in her religious convictions about the importance of family history for youth.  She said "When the Lord has something important to do He often asks the youth to do it."  She cited the examples of Mormon, another Book of Mormon figure who was called to the ministry at only 15.  And she talked of Joseph Smith, the modern day prophet who started the LDS church and was called of God at the age of 14.  She said that she believed that mobile devices had been developed so that this generation would be able to do family history.  And I really appreciated her leadership in saying, "I will never ask you to start doing what I'm not doing."  She told them that you can't be a leader unless you are out in front doing it.  So she promised them that she would be on the computer doing it too--and she told them she might be calling them for some help.  :)

She talked about an initiative in one area of the church (I'm sorry I missed the location) where a few youth were taught about how to research their family history and then each of them went and taught another young person how to do it.  Each of them in turn went and taught another person.  She joked that it works best when the girls were inviting boys.  "Talk about binding hearts together."  :)  She asked each of the youth in attendance to go out and teach another young person about family history. As you can see by my other posts about what what my kids thought about RootsTech, that would definitely help with my own family.  There is some sort of disconnect when adults are talking about it.  My teenagers resonate best with other teenagers teaching how to do it.

It was a great presentation.  I left all inspired and I think the kids caught a bit of inspiration too.  You can read more of Sister Dalton's instructions to LDS youth about family history here

RootsTech from a teenage perspective--guest blogger

This is a guest post written my my 13 year old daughter.  I asked her to write about what she thought of the sessions for teenagers last weekend at RootsTech.   She typed her ideas about family history conferences into her phone as she listened to the lectures.  I've preserved all of the original spelling for you and all of the passion.  She is definitely my daughter.  I do best with spell checking too.

I don't exactly like how they all talk about the same thing. It is probably just me because I've been to so many but it seems like they all talk about exactly the same thing. They all talk about how "we have to get children involved in family history" and we have to teach them what our history is and family history is so fun and it is a good way to spend your time.  

I think the first thing you should do is just put up some geniolagy charts and pictures of your ansesters.  Don't totally jump in and say "oh go do indexing and go find some ansesters" that I've never heard of before. Start slow . Maybe after that just start telling them a couple of the story's every now and then but try not to tell the same story's then it gets reely boring and it makes them think that it's boring and totally shuts them down.

          Next try introducing them to  roots magic or something and let them go find random people.  Do not stand over them.  If they have questions they will come to you.  If they are not to much into computers like me then  try giving them recipes from your ansesters at some kind of craft like paper dolls or try collages. If you have any thing from your ansesters you can show them that

Another thing you can do is plan trips to go see where they lived. Let them explore don't give them a huge presentation or whatever on what is what. They will figure out and mabey it's just me but my mom takes forever to go through things so you can go find things while they go explore.  Don't stop them in the middle either.  If you want to take a picture take it while they are looking around don't make them stop and get them to them to smile becouse they were probilbly looking at something and you just killed the mood. It makes them not want to do it any more becouse you take too many pictures and you don't let them explore for themselfs.

Then introduce them to actual family history like making charts but again let them do it unless they have questions don't take over. It totally kills there perspective of family history.  It makes them think that its is sooooo boring and it's something that old people do for fun but if you let them do it it is much more fun for them.

Janet again--I don't know about you but I learned alot.  And maybe more is sinking in than I thought there was. Apparently there are some things we have done that she has enjoyed.  And she's intrigued. That is very very good.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Report from the youth sessions of RootsTech

So of course we had to try out the youth sessions on Saturday for RootsTech.  I was really glad I had already scheduled my kids to be there on Saturday for the youth sessions because I had to press them into child labor at the booth in the morning.  We were so busy passing out fill-in-the-blank charts that we needed their help. It was wonderful to have them around to help with all the youth we saw at the conference on Saturday, and then luckily the bulk of the classes started at at 3 in the afternoon, so by then they were able to go and I was able to go to the later classes with them. 

The kids went to the 3:00 session by themselves and here's what they reported:  They said it was about "how to get involved"  They liked the videos (this is the youtube generation--descended from the tv generation.  We all perk up when there are videos involved.)  They liked that it wasn't one person talking the whole time.  It impressed them when youth talked about how satisfying family history was--that it wasn't just the parents talking about it. 

My middle son wanted them to get beyond the "why it is interesting" to how to do it.  I thought that was really informative.  I think he is getting a little beyond the "I'm interested" stage and he is looking for better skills.  But he wouldn't be interested in a real class with me at a regular conference.  That still seems like the adults talking too much.  So I need to figure out where I can get him a little higher level training without him feeling like he is "becoming a genealogist." (watch out for that awful word with teenagers.)  He said he wanted a class where they "teach you how to search for ancestors" but I know he wouldn't have wanted to go to any of the three days of classes there had just been at the conference.  So--I have another nut to crack.  How do I get my teenagers to feel welcome and involved in a real "how to do it" class at a genealogy conference?  Is it just because there are only adults there?

When I came in just after 4pm to the panel discussion facilitated by my friend Devin Ashby, I was thrilled to find my kids listening to other kids.  YEA!  They need to hear from other youth not just from the adults.  That seemed to really resonate with them.  One of the kids on the panel had been to the same school my kids attend.  Score!  They liked seeing what other kids had done to get involved.  They liked that the facilitator didn't make it "all serious" (Thanks Devin!) 

It was fantastic for me to walk in to that 4pm class and find thousands of youth in the auditorium.  Fantastic.  Just think what great genealogists they will be when they are our age.  They are going to completely outstrip the efforts of this generation.  I can't wait. 

Next post--Elaine Dalton's Saturday evening presentation. 

Great Ideas from RootsTech Attendees

So I had such a wonderful time last weekend at the RootsTech conference talking with people about getting the next generation of their family involved with their family history.  We were crazy busy at the Family ChartMasters booth.  I don't think I sat down the whole three days.  It was so exciting to see so many people resonating with the ideas in the books.  It was really invigorating to talk to people about their ideas and their needs in their family. 

The ideas in the book really jelled in my head even more from talking about them with everyone.  They are really about creating a culture of family history in your family--just breathing family history into your lives so that the children in your family just naturally grow up learning about who they are.  That's what my Mom did.  And that's what I'm trying to do with my children, especially now that they are in the "oh mom" teenager stage.  That's what these books can teach families to do and helps strengthen their relationships along the way.  As I said over and over last weekend, Family History is something that only you share.  It is a "team building exercise" that strengthens your family bonds and nurtures your youth as they become strong capable adults. 

So in my "The Cool Parts of Genealogy: engaging my teenagers case study" class I was able to talk to the audience a little about what ideas they have used in their families.  At the booth there were lots of people with great ideas too.  Here is some of what they said:

  • Take all the interview/story prompt questions you can find and print them on bright colored paper and cut them up and put them in a jar.  Then at family dinners or family gatherings, have everyone pull one out.  
  • One family makes family sweatshirts every year with a theme.
  • Kim Cotton suggested that her teenage nieces and nephews always are interested when she talks about the scoundrels in her family.  Nice people--not so much :)
  • One lady talked about having an "Ancestor" for dinner and sampling the cuisine and music and stories of that ancestor.  We actually talk about this one on page 141 of Zap The Grandma Gap
  • One man created a huge model submarine of the ship his father worked on in World War II.  What kid wouldn't be interested in that?
  • One man found his kids' interest was piqued when he took them with them to teach someone else about how to find their family history. I do that alot too.  
If you have other ideas, we'd love to hear them.  Together we can figure out how to create a stronger culture of family history in each of our families.  What works in your family might work in mine.  So let me know how it goes. 

Family History Center Permissions

At the RootsTech Conference this last weekend, I had requests from 15 - 20 Family History Center directors asking if they could make copies from my books for their patrons.  I was caught off guard by these requests and may have given some people the impression that they could freely copy and distribute pages from my books.  I feel I need to clarify copyright restrictions a bit more and make sure we are clear on how I will permit Family History Centers and Family History Consultants to use my materials.

I'm glad there are so many people who think the materials will be useful and I'm happy to have them distribute the ideas. If you are a family history center director, or a family history consultant, you are welcome to distribute predetermined copies of pages from my books using the following guidelines:

1 - Rather than making copies of pages from my book and website materials, please refer people to the website where they can make their own copies of the materials themselves.  You can find many materials from both books at  We will be continuing to add to those resources.

2 - If you have a specific need to distribute any other pages from the book or workbook, please contact me directly at and I will be happy to provide 3-5 pages of .pdfs with the website address and my name on them.  You are only authorized to use these .pdf handouts and not pages directly from the books. Pages from the books and especially the workbook are only designed for use within the purchaser's family. 

3- I'd be happy to consider bulk orders for the books at a discounted price.  I'm available to talk to you about anything I can do to further your efforts.  You can contact me about speaking and conducting workshops to get our youth involved.  I hope we can work together to make Zapping the Grandma Gap a successful endeavor for all of us.

I hope family history center directors and family history consultants and will carefully consider what they use so that they can be completely honest about following copyright laws. We are gearing up to produce many other resources and workbooks in this series this year but can only do that if the books sell well and I have the resources to further develop this theme.  Combined, our efforts can contribute to the success of the books so that we can all work together to engage the next generation in this important work. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Workbook Announcement

Most parents and grandparents would do anything and everything to raise the youth in their family to be successful adults.  There are play groups and preschool lessons, music and dance, sports, tutoring and youth groups, the right schools, the right nutrition, etc.etc.  However, many people miss one of the most basic and foundational things that can set a child up for success in life—teaching their child about their family’s history. 

So we’ve created another unique resource that looks at family history in an engaging and youthful way so that anyone can easily engage the youth in their family with their history.  In conjunction with my corresponding lectures at the RootsTech conference this week, we have released the new  Zap the Grandma Gap Power Up Workbook: The Particulars About How To Connect With Your Family by Connecting Them To Their Family History, a hands-on book with step by step instructions, procedures, templates and resources that will help teach the next generation to love their heritage.  In the fill-in-the-blank book you will find:
•    Brainstorming activities to spark ideas
•    Suggestions for travel
•    Checklists and invitations for parties
•    Outlines for children’s books and activity books
•    Templates for games
•    Designs for recipe cards and ornaments
•    Surveys of the best websites
•    Ideas for incentives
•    Lists of interview questions
•    And instructions and templates for many other activities
This book discusses many ways to combine a family’s specific heritage with the specific interests of their youth.

The workbook is a companion to the book Zap the Grandma Gap: Connect With Your Family by Connecting Them To Their Family History.  This new book has already inspired families throughout the world about the importance of family history in connecting today’s families.  In it parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles can learn:
•    How to prepare for further curiosity by infusing their surroundings with their history.
•    Why plugging into the net is the easiest way to plug their family into their past
•    How to utilize your talents to teach their family about their history
•    Why discovering the surrounding history together makes their progenitors come alive.
•    How to pull their posterity close by carefully creating and recording today’s history.
•    Why it is important to simplify their family’s story their family can appreciate the past.

I come from a family that practices the principles found in this book.  As a librarian, I helped people at the BYU library with their family history research but was completely uninterested in my own. I inherited a large amount of genealogy from my mother and grandmother, both wonderful genealogists who lived family history in a way that was attractive and inviting.  Eventually I woke up to the soul satisfaction of learning about my family’s past.  Most recently I have found great joy in encouraging my  teenage children's genealogical interests. The pre-release of the workbook was well received this last month while I was speaking at the Who Do You Think You Are Conference in London, and the North Florida Genealogy Conference.  I gave several lectures about engaging the next generation with their family history.  Among other topics, I will be speaking this weekend at the RootsTech conference on “The Cool Parts of Genealogy: Engaging My Teenagers Case Study.”  Please come say Hi at the Family ChartMasters booth if you are planning on attending. 

Zap the Grandma Gap Power Up Workbook: The Particulars About How To Connect With Your Family by Connecting Them To Their Family History
by Janet Hovorka is available now at, at bookstores and by calling 801-872-4278.  A 24 page excerpt of the workbook and a 28 page excerpt of the book are available for free on the website along with downloads of other supporting materials.  Sign up on the homepage for a free 52 week e-newsletter with even more ideas on how to engage the next generation with their family history.

About the Author:  Janet Hovorka received a B.A. in Ancient Near Eastern History and a Master's degree in Library and Information Science from BYU.  She and her husband Kim Hovorka own Family ChartMasters ( —official, award winning printers for most of the genealogy software and database companies.  She is currently serving as President of the Utah Genealogical Association and teaches courses in library skills and genealogy at Salt Lake Community College.  Janet writes the The Chart Chick blog (, has written for numerous genealogy publications, and has presented 100s of lectures all over the world to help people learn more about their past. 

Media kit available upon request. 
Zap the Grandma Gap : Connect With Your Family by Connecting Them To Their Family History by Janet Hovorka.  Published by Family ChartMasters: Cedar Hills, Utah, 2013. Paperback, $23.95 194pp.  ISBN 978-0-9888548-0-2.
Zap the Grandma Gap Power Up Workbook: The Particulars About How To Connect With Your Family by Connecting Them To Their Family History by Janet Hovorka.  Published by Family ChartMasters: Cedar Hills, Utah, 2013. Paperback, $23.95 103pp.  ISBN 978-0-9888548-1-9.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Acorn Club

I have to tell you about the most wonderful resource in Great Britain that I learned about last year but then had a chance to reconnect with a couple of weeks ago when I was speaking and showing off the new book at Who Do You Think You Are Live. The Devon County Family History Society has developed some wonderful resources for the youth in that area. They have a program called the Acorn club that they take into local schools to teach children about family history. It must be a Janet thing--Janet Few and Janet Henwood and several other people not named Janet ;) have developed online resources you can see at They have promised to put up more of the resources they have developed so that others can use them to inspire the children in their lives.

They let me take a few snapshots of the packet have for the children they work with.

It was a wonderful packet of resources for the kids. They have done such a fantastic job of assembling resources and I'm so glad they are willing to share.

I also had a wonderful talk with Chris Braund about the work he and Janet Few do in schools with living history. They go in as 17th century people and teach kids about what life was like. They make them do the washing up, but first they have to haul the water, chop the wood to heat the water, etc. and it is so eye opening to kids. Just like in my recent Family Tree Magazine article, when you actually live it you learn so much that you never would have supposed by only studying history. It teaches such a great perspective and attitude of gratitude to kids. I wish they could come teach in our schools.

I had some great discussions with Chris and Janet about how families are changing and how tricky it is on a school level to teach children about the family. Chris thinks things dramatically changed with the advent of television and I think he is right. Families used to talk more about their history and about themselves and numerous generations used to live closer--sometimes even under one roof. Now we are not only spread out more but mealtimes are spent in front of the television instead of talking to each other.

On top of that, we talked about how families have changed so that when you start talking about a child's family structure in school it is kind of tough. They've had challenges with children having a hard time distinguishing between multiple step families and live in lover's families. So with the Acorn Society they often start with surnames. Even that has been problematic at times with changing families but it seems to work best. And then they move on to all sorts of other fun things.

That illustrates exactly why children need to know about their history so much. Even in cases where the last couple of generations have made messes, family history teaches a child about the people before. And they can proceed forward into the future with greater understanding and a greater sense of who they are. So go check out what the Acorn club is doing.

And perhaps you could start a club in your school.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Mom is still Zapping me

So while I was in England to speak at the Who Do You Think You Are Live conference, I had an opportunity to go to tea with my mother at the Kensington Palace Orangrie.  It was absolutely lovely and everything you would think that tea at Kensington Palace would be. 

But while we were there, I wasn't having the wonderful experience that I should have been having.  I was frustrated with some things that had come up in life and upset that life wasn't going as I wanted it to.  I was complaining to my Mom.  I so appreciate that she is a safe place to put my trouble and she is always willing to listen. 

Well this time she turned my book around on me--perfectly executing what I have written about in Zap the Grandma Gap.  As I was complaining that the world wouldn't conform to my wishes, she sunk a parenting shot that changed my whole outlook on life. 

She talked to me about her mother.  My matriarchal grandmother suffered from Multiple Sclerosis.  She stopped walking when I started walking and was confined to a wheelchair the entire time I knew her.  She passed away just before my third child was born, making about thirty years that she patiently dealt with this horrible disease and the horrible wheelchairs that she was confined to.  Grandma dealt with it all with absolutely amazing grace. 

These are my mother's parents.  I adored my grandmother and grandfather and I am so thankful for the 30 years that I had with them before they passed.  Grandma was so patient with us, with life, and she was happy, truly happy.  I always knew she loved me very much.   One of my favorite memories of her was when we were watching TV and saw a news article about Christopher Reeve as a parapalegic.  She looked at him and shook her head and said, "I don't know how he does it."

In the midst of my complaining, Mom reminded me that Grandma's life didn't go the way she wanted it to either--but in a much bigger way.  Likewise, Grandpa wasn't able to do the things he wanted to with his wife but he loved her all the more.  Grandpa worked his whole life for United Airlines and they had free tickets anywhere when he retired.  They relished the one trip they were able to take to Europe with my uncle's help and never complained that they couldn't do more traveling. 

With Mom's gentle prompting, I decided that day that I can be happy like Grandma Dana even though life gave her something different than what she planned.  I can be happy like Grandpa Dana who thought it was a privilege to take care of Grandma.  I can be happy with my much smaller trials because I have that in my DNA. 

So again we find that the principles of using your family history to strengthen your family today work on adults.  The principles from the book even work on me.  My Mom is still zapping me.