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. 

1 comment:

  1. Janet,

    How wonderful! Congrats on your son's wonderful presentation!

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a fantastic weekend!