Saturday, December 3, 2011

Genealogy and Kids: I Start Them Early

A common lament among family historians (at least that I've noticed) is that they don't have anyone to pass their research on to when their time comes. They might have a distant relative or cousin, but not many have children of their own that are interested in family history. Hopefully, I won't be one of those people. You see I started my daughter early with genealogy.

My daughter was six months old when I started researching our family history so she's been around it her entire young life. Her bedtime stories were (and still are) based on stories of our ancestors. As an infant, one of her favorite toys was one of those soft photo albums that you can put your own pictures in. I filled it with pictures of our family. As she would flip through the album, I'd tell her who each person was.

Before she could even walk, she was accompanying me to cemeteries. The majority of cemetery visits were for FindAGrave rather than our own family history, but it has taught her a lot. She has learned that cemeteries are not a scary place, but instead a place to visit with those who have went before us. It also helped her learn her letters, an added bonus.

Last October, we were in Georgia visiting family and took some time to go around to cemeteries where family members are buried. It was then that she asked for (and received) her first camera. I was a little leery of giving a four year old a camera so I bought her a cheap 35mm to start.

The munchkin taking headstone pics for FindAGrave at a cemetery nearby.
Just before her fifth birthday, when it was obvious that she was going to take care of it, not to mention actually took some pretty good pictures, I upgraded her to a digital camera. She's had a blast with it, even showing it off to her cousins and teaching them how to take headstone pictures earlier this year when we visited another cemetery with them. She loves taking pictures of headstones, especially those of our ancestors.

She has met all of her great grandparents on my side of the family. Unfortunately, all of her great grandparents on my husband's side passed before she came along. She's extremely lucky because she has a 2nd great grandparent still living. We have a trip planned for April so she can meet her. She's also met five of her great-aunts, a 2nd great aunt and a 2nd great uncle.

The munchkin with her great grandfather on my dad's side doing a puzzle. My sisters and I visited him and my grandmother every chance we got and doing puzzles was one of the things we enjoyed.
The munchkin with her great grandmother on my dad's side. She actually got to meet her a few years earlier, but hadn't met her great grandfather until this trip.
The munchkin with her great grandfather on my mom's side. He passed a few days after this picture was taken. She met her great grandmother at his funeral but I was too upset to remember to get a picture.
The munchkin with her great aunts (my mom's sisters)
Since she was a baby, she's been surrounded by items related to her heritage. As a baby, she slept with baby blankets made for me by my grandmothers. It's an awesome feeling to lay your child down on the same blanket you slept on as a baby. The quilt she currently sleeps under was made for me by my great grandmother as a graduation gift.

The munchkin in a basket with the blanket I used as a baby. It was made by my grandmother.
My bedroom suite has been passed down through four generations of women, starting with my great grandmother. Once she's old enough to understand its importance and take care of it properly, I will pass it on to my daughter. The bookends in her room were made by my grandfather when I was a child. The children's Bible we read to her from is the same one that her grandparents read to her dad and uncle when they were children. We also read to her from a set of fairy tales that entertained my mom and aunts as children, and later my sisters and I as well.
The munchkin on the bed. The purple quilt was made by my great grandmother. In the background you can see the dresser that is part of the bedroom suite that has been passed down through four generations.
Does all this mean she'll inherit my interest in family history? Only time will tell. I can only hope that by giving her a good foundation, she'll build on it and understand the importance of knowing her heritage and want to carry on where I left off.

1 comment:

  1. It's absolutely wonderful that you are teaching your daughter about her family history, and including her in your research. She will appreciate it so much, especially when she's older.