A granddaughter, Amanda, recently phoned me for information about her grandfather’s Bankhead family tree. She is age nine and her school teacher gave the class an assignment to complete over the Thanksgiving break. She was asked to find out if there were any “Indians” in the family tree or discover any stories about her ancestors.
Amanda lives in Oregon. I live in Utah. I could have easily sent her a huge database or sent her to one online, but it was important that I took the time to talk with her about her ancestors.
So, I sat in front of my computer while she recorded things on paper in Oregon. It would have been more ideal to sit beside her and help her fill in a chart, but we did the best we could despite the distance between us.
I gave her information on her grandfather, great-grandfather, gg, etc., back to John Henderson Bankhead who was born in Tennessee, moved to Mississippi, married, joined the Mormon church, and migrated with the Mississippi Saints to the Salt Lake Valley in 1847.
I told her of the pioneers crossing the plains, how the children had to walk, how meals were cooked over a campfire, and their possible interactions with “Indians.”
It made family history come alive for Amanda, not just a list of names and dates.
When I had given her as much as I felt she needed at the time, I had her read it back to me to make sure she got names and dates right.
As she read her data back to me, I went to FindAGrave and pulled up the tombstone for John Henderson Bankhead. I told her she could find his grave at the website and that it has links to his parents, wife, and children!
She was excited and said, “This is so much fun!”
It was fun for her because SHE was doing it. She told me she thought all I would know about was her grandfather (my husband Bruce) and maybe his father. She was excited to know more about the family.
Tips for getting family members involved while they are young:
- Don’t just hand them a chart all filled out. Give them a chart to fill out on their own. It’s while they are doing the actual writing that things begin to click for them because they have invested some effort in the task.
- Tell them stories about each family member.
- Give them a place to find out more information.
How have you involved young family members in their own family history?