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.