101+ Fun Family History Activities for Kids
**= Activities suitable or easily adapted for younger children.
1. A family group record (FGR), sometimes called a family group sheet, is a form used to list the vital information for one set of parents and all of their children. Obtain a family group record and fill it out to best of your knowledge for your immediate family. Ask your parents to help you fill in the rest.
2. A pedigree, or ancestral chart, is a form that lists an individual and several generations of his direct-line ancestors (parents and grandparents). Obtain a pedigree chart and fill it out to the best of your knowledge. Ask your parents and grandparents to help you fill it out further.
3. **In his 1941 Caldecott Award winning picture book, They Were Strong and Good, author/illustrator Robert Lawson honors his ancestors through words and drawings. Obtain a copy of the book and read it. Tell what you know about your parents and grandparent's lives in words and drawings. *Note: Some of the author's ancestors did own slaves and African American readers may find Lawson's matter-of-fact writing style offensive.
4. **Have one of your grandparents teach you how to prepare a favorite food from their childhood.
5. **Learn about a popular game or sport that your parents or grandparents played when they were young. If possible, get some friends together and play the game.
6. **Begin a diary or journal. Write in it at least once a week. Young children can draw pictures or dictate to a parent.
7. Look at photograph albums with an older relative. Have them identify the people in the photos. If the identities are not marked on the photos, carefully write the name on the back with a soft lead pencil or archival quality pen.
8. Keep a scrapbook of report cards, awards, letters, and honors you have received.
9. Write about your favorite holiday memories in your journal.
10. Make a list of your favorite holiday foods. Gather the recipes for them and write the recipes in your journal or include them in your scrapbook.
11. Visit a genealogical research facility. Call your public library or use an Internet search engine to find facilities near your home.
12. **Learn about an ancestor's occupation. If possible, visit a place where you can see the occupation demonstrated.
13. Honor a deceased ancestor on his or her birthday. Share stories and information about their life. Prepare foods he or she might have eaten.
14. **Visit a historic home in your area. Ask the guide questions about how someone your age would have lived during the time the home was first lived in.
15. **Find out what your name means and why your parents chose it.
16. **On a map of the world or your country, place a sticker on each city or area in which your ancestors lived.
17. Prepare a list of questions you might like to ask an older relative or friend to learn about their life.
18. Learn about heraldry. Design and create a personal or family Coat of Arms.
19. **Visit a cemetery. With adult supervision, make crayon or pencil rubbings of inscriptions on the stones.
20. Learn about terms used in family history research. Create a word search or crossword puzzle game. Try www.puzzlemaker.com to make your puzzles.
21. **On a large driveway, playground or empty parking lot, use chalk to begin marking pedigree lines starting with you. See how far you can go in the space you have to work with. When you are finished, count the lines.
22. **Draw a map of your neighborhood. Show where you live, your school, the park, your best friend's house, your favorite climbing tree, your school bus stop, etc. Include the map in your journal or scrapbook.
23. Plan a family reunion.
24. Create a family newsletter and send it to your relatives.
25. Write to a relative and ask them to tell you a story about themselves.
26. Make a family calendar of all the birthdays and wedding anniversaries for everyone in the family. Make copies and share them with your relatives. Make an online calendar at www.calendars.net. You can also use the calendar creation feature that is often included with popular word processing software. See if your home software has this feature. Consider including family photos on your calendar and give copies of the calendar as a gift.
27. In your journal, write down what you do on an ordinary day. Include everything you do from the time you get up in the morning to the time you go to bed at night.
28. **Ask your parents and grandparents if they own any family heirlooms. Ask them to show them to you and explain the history behind them.
29. Ask older relatives to tell about themselves. Use a tape, video or digital voice recorder to record what they have to say.
30. **Record your own family's voices on a tape, video or digital voice recorder. Be sure to record the date.
31. Do you have a nickname? What about other members of your family? Ask how they got their nicknames and write the stories in your journal or scrapbook.
32. Watch a travel video about a country your ancestors came from. Many of these are available at the public library.
33. **Learn a song or dance from a country your ancestors came from.
34. Learn about your ancestor's native language. Get a dictionary for that language from the library and try to learn some words and phrases.
35. **Gather small photographs of yourself, your parents and both sets of grandparents. Make a family tree of photographs, using yourself as the trunk.
36. Choose a few old family photographs to frame and display in your home.
37. **Use a magnifying glass to look closely at old family photographs. Look for hidden details such as what flowers were growing in the yard, license numbers on cars, the print pattern on a dress, etc.
38. Make a list of holiday, birthday, or everyday traditions in your family. Choose one to write about in detail. Include how and when the tradition started.
39. **Make a paper chain pedigree chart. Include a paper link for each individual (chain will not be in a straight line).
40. Ask your grandparents to tell you what they remember about their grandparents. Write down what they tell you.
41. **Physical traits can be passed down through generations. Pick a trait that you have: eye color, freckles, hair color, hitchhiker's thumb, good singing voice, long fingers, etc. Map out several generations of your family on pedigree and family group records. Note on the chart which relatives also share your physical trait. Have young children make tally sheets of how many family members have blue eyes, how many have blonde hair, etc.
42. Do certain illnesses seem to run in your family? Chart the occurrences of certain illnesses as in 41 above.
43. Chart the talents of family members as in 41 above.
44. With the help of your parents, gather and look at original birth, marriage, and death documents you might have around your house. Keep them all together and store them in a safe place.
45. If you do not have an original birth certificate for yourself, find out how to obtain one and then do so. There will probably be a fee involved.
46. Names can often give clues to family relationships. Ask your grandparents about their names. Why were they given their names?
47. Visit the homes, places of birth, or burial sites of some of your ancestors or find pictures of these places.
48. **Learn about traditional ethnic costumes of your ancestor's country of origin. Make a costume for yourself or for a doll.
49. Go to the library and check out some family history 'how to' books suitable to your age level. Ask the librarian for help if necessary.
50. **Over a hundred years ago, most families had more than 2 or 3 children. It was uncommon for children to have their own bedroom, let alone their own bed. With your parent's permission, try to share a bed with your siblings for one night. See how many minutes or hours you can last together!
51. Find out if there are any fiction books for your age level involving a family history theme. Family Tree by Katherine Ayres is an excellent book to start with. The books in the Hidden Treasure Mystery series by Eleanor Rosellini make for enjoyable reading as well. Check out these books and others at your public library.
52. Ask your aunts and uncles to tell you stories about your parent's childhood.
53. Tell and illustrate a funny family story in comic strip style.
54. Ask everyone in your family to write a short story about the same family event. Have everyone read his or her story aloud. Compare the stories. Note how everyone remembers things differently.
55. **Visit a historical museum. Pay particular attention to items your ancestors may have used. Steer young children towards items a child his/her age might have used.
56. Obtain a newspaper for the day you were born. Contact your public library or local newspaper publisher to find out how.
57. Obtain newspapers for the days your parents and grandparents were born.
58. Create a family cookbook. Gather favorite family recipes from your grandparents, parents and other relatives. Give copies of the completed cookbooks as gifts.
59. If your ancestors were American pioneers who traveled west in the 1800's, play the computer game Oregon Trail to get a feel for what life on the trail might have been like.
60. If possible, ask your parents to take you to places they enjoyed as children. Have them share their memories relating to each place.
61. Play with the math involved in your ancestry. You had two parents. Each of them had two parents. Each grandparent had two parents. How many direct ancestors might you have in 25 generations?
62. It is not unusual to find an ancestor's name spelled differently in many different records. Play with your name. How many ways can you think of to spell it?
63. **In the book My Apron, author Eric Carle tells a story from his childhood in words and pictures. Write about an event from your life and illustrate it.
64. **Many of your ancestors probably grew their own food. With parental permission, plant a small garden and care for it. Radishes are especially suitable for small children to plant.
65. **Avoid using electricity for an entire evening. Using only candlelight, eat dinner, clean up afterwards, read and play games, and prepare for bed. Your early ancestors lived this way.
66. Find out if your local DAR chapter or historical society has an essay contest. Obtain a copy of the guidelines and prepare to enter the contest. Search the Internet for similar essay contests.
67. Learn how to use microfilm and microfiche readers at your local LDS Family History Center or library.
68. Listen to or learn to sing or play songs that were popular when your parents or grandparents were younger. Make a list of your current favorite songs.
69. Obtain a computer program to enter your family's genealogy into a database. A very good program, Personal Ancestral File (PAF), is available for free download at www.familysearch.org.
70. A census is an official government count or list of all individuals that lived in a certain location at a certain time. A census can contain information such as name, age, gender, race, address, employment, place of birth, parent's place of birth, education, etc. Learn about census records. Prepare a mock census entry for your family.
71. Use microfilm, the Internet, or other sources to obtain a copy of a census record containing the names of some of your ancestors. Images of all available U.S. census records are available on the Heritage Quest website. Heritage Quest is a subscription site that is available to libraries. Check your public library's website to find out whether or not they subscribe. If so, you should be able to search the census images at home, at no cost, from your library's site. You will probably need a current public library card to be able to access your library's databases.
72. Learn about toys your ancestor might have played with. If possible, make one of them.
73. Church records such as those for baptism, marriage and burials are a valuable tool in family history research. Ask a member of your clergy if you can look at the records of your church. Request to see your own membership record.
74. Your name becomes a part of an official record as soon as you are born and a birth certificate is filed with the government. Make a list of official printed and electronic records in which your name might currently appear.
75. A ballad is a song that tells a story. Using a story from your own life or an ancestor's life, write a ballad. Use a popular tune or compose your own. Three examples of ballads are the American folk song "Clementine," the silly TV theme song "The Ballad of Gilligan's Island," and more recently, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" by Gordon Lightfoot. Lyrics to these three ballads are available on the Internet.
76. **A flag uses colors, shapes and objects to symbolize beliefs and standards. Design and create a family flag.
77. Read a book that an ancestor may have read. For example, books written by Horatio Alger were popular with youth, especially boys, in America in the late 1800's.
78. Create a scrapbook about you and present it to a relative on a special occasion.
79. Learn about a historic event, such as a natural disaster, war, or economic disaster that may have effected one of your ancestors.
80. Everyone had an ancestor who lived through the Great Depression in the early 20th century. Find out what your family members might have done to economize (spend less money) during this time. Think of something you can do to help your family economize now.
81. Make a list of sayings that you hear your parents say often. Did their parents use them? Find out where the sayings originated.
82. **Visit a store that specializes in coin collecting. Ask the dealer to show you coins, currency and stamps your ancestors may have used.
83. **In earlier days, young girls learned to sew by stitching a sampler. Learn about samplers and do your best at creating your own. Alternatives for young children might be to let them cross-stitch their name with large x's onto a piece of fabric or draw x's onto graph paper.
84. Read examples of personal and family histories written by others, such as the Little House book series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, or Helen Keller's, The Story of My Life.
85. **Ask a parent about the circumstances surrounding your birth. Write down what they tell you.
86. Learn about timelines. Create a timeline listing all the important events in your life. Do the same for your parents and/or grandparents.
87. Learn about important world, national, and local events that took place during your lifetime, as well as your parents and grandparents. Add these events to the timelines you created. A good book resource to use is The Timetables of History by Bernard Grun. Many timelines are available on the Internet also.
88. Create a new tradition. Think of an event that is not usually commemorated in your family. Plan and carry out a fun celebration in honor of that event. Such events could include the day your pet joined the family, Halfway-Through-the-School-Year Day, or your semi-annual dentist visits.
89. Get in the habit of jotting down memories. On a back page in your journal or in a separate notebook, jot down memories as they occur to you. Make a quick entry of a line or two. When you have time at a later date, you can choose one memory at a time, about which to write a more detailed account.
90. Keep a date calendar. Save it when the year is over. The events listed on your calendar can jog your memory later on.
91. Attend a historical reenactment. Your local and state historical societies or a local history museum should be able to tell you when and where reenactments take place.
92. Investigate the possibility of serving as a youth docent or guide at a local historic site. Learn all you can about the site.
93. Attend an ethnic festival.
94. Arrange, or have your parents arrange, for your family to have a portrait taken by a photographer who specializes in vintage style, costumed photography.
95. Your ancestors most likely prepared their own food to store up for the winter months. With an adult, prepare fruits or vegetables for canning or drying. Help with the process all the way to the end result.
96. An obituary is a written tribute to an individual that is printed in a newspaper shortly after his or her death. Ask your parents or grandparents to show you any saved obituaries they might have. See what sort of personal or family information is contained in them.
97. Long ago, families made their own soap and candles. Learn about the processes involved in making these products. Find someone knowledgeable about making one or both. Ask him or her to explain and/or demonstrate the process.
98. The Internet is a great source for finding others who are working on similar ancestral lines. Try to identify another individual who is researching one of your ancestral lines. With parental supervision explore query forums on the Internet. Two such forums are at genforum and familyhistory.com. Always get parental permission before registering at any Internet site.
99. Take pictures of or collect wallet size school portraits of your friends. Write identification on the back of the photographs and include them in your scrapbook. Tell about how you met each friend and special memories you have of them.
100. Play this family history game with your family. Give each family member a pedigree chart filled out with only names. Or, create a large pedigree chart out of posterboard and mount on wall. On 3x5 cards, write information and/or anecdotes about each ancestor appearing on the pedigree chart. Have family members match the information on the cards to the names on the chart.
101. With your parent's permission, choose a large wall, such as a stairwell or hallway and decorate it with family photographs, documents and heirlooms, old and new, and of various sizes. Be sure the wall you choose does not receive direct sunlight or your photographs will fade quickly.
102. Using index cards, create a Trivial Pursuit© type flashcard game for your family. Write a question concerning an ancestor on one side of the card and the answer on the back. Quiz your family.
103. Make a memory jar using a large clean jar such as those used for mayonnaise. Decorate the lid. Cut strips of paper about 1x4 inches. As a memory comes to mind, jot down a quick notation about it on a strip of paper and place it in the jar. When you have time, take a strip out of the jar and write a more detailed account of the memory and include it in your journal.
104. Using old photographs or library books, study hairstyles from an ancestor's era. Try to arrange your hair in one of the styles. Invite friends over to join in the activity.
105. Walk through your house and make note of different items that hold special memories for you. Write about them in your journal.
106. Do you personally know one or more of your great-grandparents? Ask them to tell you anything they remember about their parents or grandparents. You may be able to find out information about people who were born over 150 years ago by someone who personally knew them!
107. If you are a member of the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, find out what the requirements are for earning the Genealogy Merit Badge or other family history related badges. Complete the requirements for the badge(s).
108. Write a skit based on an event or events in your family history. Perform the skit or make a family video movie using your skit for the screenplay.
109. Find out if your local library, historical society or genealogical society offers community education classes. Register for a class and encourage another family member to attend with you.
110. If you have access to a computer scanner, scan family photographs into your computer. Email copies of the photographs to relatives.
111. Learn how to electronically 'repair' damaged photographs. Using what you have learned, scan a damaged photograph into your computer and repair the image.
112. Our ancestors lived by the motto, 'Waste not, want not.' They repaired and reused items to get as much use as possible out of them. Women adhered to this motto by making patchwork quilts from pieces of worn-out clothes or leftover fabric. Even the smallest pieces were saved and used in quilts. Ask a parent for some old clothes that you can cut up. Learn how to make a full or doll sized patchwork quilt out of the clothes and scraps you have gathered.
113. Learn about calendars. Obtain a perpetual calendar such as the one available at www.calendarhome.com and use it to find out the days of the week on which birthdays and other events from your family took place.
114. In the past it was common practice to inscribe gravestones with the deceased person's age at the time of death. Using the date of death and the age at death, family historians can calculate a date of birth. Using a date calculator (available with some genealogy software or on the Internet at http://www.calendarhome.com/tyc/ or http://www.longislandgenealogy.com/birth.html ), calculate how old you are in years, months and days.
115. **Make a treasure chest. Find a large box or large plastic container with lid and decorate it. Use it to store all your treasures that are too bulky to place in a scrapbook.
116. **If not against cemetery rules, plant flowers on an ancestor's grave. Spring growing crocus bulbs are good to plant in the fall because the flowers are finished blooming long before grass mowing time.
117. **For Halloween, dress up in a style of clothing one of your ancestors might have worn.
118. Have some fun with family snapshots. Write funny captions and place them in your photo album under the photographs.
119. Have you ever been mentioned in a newspaper article? Newspapers can become yellowed and brittle over time. Photocopy your special newspaper articles onto acid-free paper and place them in your scrapbook. Don't forget to include the title and date of the paper. If you really want to keep the original newspaper, consider purchasing some deacidifier spray that will prevent or slow down the aging process of the newspaper.
120. Throw a party! Find out about fun activities that were common 100 or more years ago. Invite your friends to come and have fun doing things like pulling taffy, making silhouettes or square dancing.
121. **Many of your ancestors made their own butter. To make your own butter, fill a baby food jar or other small jar about half full with whipping cream. Add a pinch of salt if desired and then screw the lid on tight. Shake the jar until a ball of butter forms. Pour off the liquid (buttermilk) and enjoy your homemade butter.
122. Make a family or individual time capsule, preferably using a waterproof container that will not rust. Include newspapers, photographs, coins, stamps, school papers, movie ticket stubs, etc. Include a letter containing family and personal goals for the future. Write the current date on the box as well as the date on which it will be opened. Seal it shut and place it in a safe place.
123. **If possible take photographs of all the homes you have lived in. If photographs are not possible, draw, paint or build models of your homes. Note the address of the home on your photograph, art or model. Young children will enjoy building or drawing their own house or a grandparent's house.
124. Explore genealogy databases available on the Internet. Search for your own ancestors on the sites. Two good sites are www.familysearch.org and www.ancestry.com (the latter is a pay site and you may need to go to a genealogy library to access it).
125. Learn what life was like for youth in earlier times. Read books in the "American Girl" or "My Name is America" series.
126. Write a poem about how you feel about your family history or about special memories of a parent or grandparent.
127. Many old documents and letters are written in handwriting that is difficult to read. Transcribe a document or letter by rewriting or typing it word for word, giving yourself a copy that is easier to read.
128. Make lists. Lists are a quick, easy way to add to your personal history. Make lists of your favorite foods, least favorite foods, schools you attended, favorite TV shows, favorite books, etc. Be sure to date the lists and add them to your journal or scrapbook.
129. **Using hard drying clay, create a 'tombstone.' After shaping the clay, use a sharp pencil or toothpick to inscribe the 'tombstone' with your name and date of birth, or anything else you would like (be sure that no rough pieces of clay are sticking up). Let the clay harden. If there are rough pieces of dried clay sticking up around the letters, you will need to lightly sand them down. Place a sheet of paper over the engraving and rub with a crayon or pencil. The inscription will appear on the paper. As an alternative you can use a bar of soap.
130. **Make clothespin dolls to represent each ancestor on your four-generation pedigree chart. Create a pedigree chart out of poster board and mount each ancestor's doll in the appropriate place.
131. Find out how and where your parents, grandparents or aunts and uncles met. Write the stories down in your journal.
132. **Make a place mat using photographs of family members. Arrange the photos on a large piece of construction paper or card stock and glue in place. Laminate or cover the mat on both sides with clear contact paper.
133. **Bake gingerbread cookies using boy and girl cookie cutters. Decorate them with frosting and/or small treats to resemble your family members. Using frosting, 'glue' the cookies to a large tray or poster in a family tree pattern.
134. **The National Genealogical Society (NGS) offers a full-color comic book for children. This book, Hunting for Your Heritage, is an adventure story that teaches young people about family history research in a fun and colorful way. The books are available for a nominal price through NGS at the National Genealogy Society
135. Most school children in late 19th century America used McGuffey Eclectic Readers as school textbooks. Replica reprints of these books are available at many public libraries. Check out a McGuffey reader for your age level and do some of the exercises.
136. Did your ancestor come to America between the years 1892 and 1924? If so, they may have come through the port of New York and were processed at Ellis Island. Visit Ellis Island and try to find your ancestor on a passenger list. After you find your ancestor, find a photograph of the ship on which they sailed to America. Try searching the website for the nearby Castle Garden processing center as well.
137. A deed is a document that records the transfer of property. Today surveyors make precise measurements of land location and boundaries and record the precise measurements on the deed. However, in the past it was common to measure and describe land boundaries based on land features such as trees, creeks, rocks, etc. Using a compass and a stick or 'rod' of predetermined length, measure your backyard, wherever possible using the physical features of your yard to describe it. Write down your description and measurements as you go.
138. Take a carriage ride and experience a type of transportation your ancestors used over 100 years ago.
139. Assist your parents in arranging for a short train trip to experience a type of transportation your ancestors may have used over 100 years ago.
140. **Make a mobile using photographs of family members and/or family heirlooms. Use photocopies of the photographs and store the originals in a safe place.
141. Attend a monthly meeting of your local genealogical or historical society.
142. Create a family on-line scrapbook. Some web sites, such as ComeHome.net offer free web scrapbook space. There are also web sites, such as MyFamily.com, which will instruct you in creating and posting your family scrapbook with a paid subscription.
143. Create a We Were There book. Ask family members where and what they were doing when a specific historical event took place. Record their responses as well as memories about their emotions at the time of the event.
144. **Find pictures of the national flags of your ancestor's homelands. Make a decorative wall hanging incorporating the flags. If desired, inscribe the names of immigrant ancestors on the flags. Young children can draw and color the flags.
145. Find out how to obtain actual national flags for the nations your ancestors came from. If desired, purchase a flag to display in your home.
146. Lead your family in creating a family history quilt. Have each person design and create a quilt square which celebrates their interests and personalities. Help each person decide on a technique suited to his or her level of ability. Sew the blocks together and tie or quilt the layers together.
147. Go to a cemetery and help maintain family graves by pulling weeds, trimming grass and cleaning stones if necessary (ask at the cemetery office about their preferred method for cleaning the stones).
148. Purchase a collage photo frame. Choose an assortment of family holiday photographs covering a span of years. Mount the photographs in the collage frame and display for the holiday. Change the photographs for each holiday or get several collage frames and prepare one for each holiday.
149. Plant a symbolic family tree in your yard. Get input from family members and a tree nursery concerning the best variety of tree to plant.
150. Are you the first person to live in your home? If not, try to discover your home's history. With adult supervision, search the main plumbing pipes and/or electrical circuit box for original home inspection stickers. The date on the sticker will tell you when your home was built. Ask your parents whom they bought it from. Ask to see the sales documents for clues concerning from whom the previous owner purchased the home. Write down the legal property description found on the sale contract and go to your county courthouse. With the description, ask a clerk to help you learn more about previous property owners.
151. Encourage your family to take a family history vacation. Take part in mapping and planning the trip. Include as many of your ancestral homes as possible.
152. In the past, if a family belonged to a Christian faith they most likely owned a family Bible. Most Bibles contained blank pages on which to record important family events such as births, marriages and deaths. This Bible was generally passed down through the generations. Ask your parents and grandparents if they know of the existence of a family Bible. Ask to view it, try to locate it or, if none exists, start recording important dates in the Bible your family owns now.
153. Make your family a holiday scrapbook. Include holiday newsletters and cards your family has received or sent, photographs, holiday recipes and stories detailing the favorite holiday memories of family members. Display it in a prominent place during the holiday so it can be enjoyed by all.
154. Long before the advent of the interstate highway system, people were trying to find the easiest way to get from here to there. A move to a new location might have included wagon trails, rail lines and water routes. Learn about early migration routes and methods of travel. Try to locate early maps of the area through which your ancestors traveled. Many modern roads were in existence long ago. For example much of easternmost US Interstate 70 follows the route of the original National Road which was built in the early 1800's. On a modern day map, trace the route your ancestors most likely traveled.
155. **Make the ultimate family portrait. Photocopy family portraits, new and old, enlarging or reducing as necessary. Cut the background off from around the figures. Draw a new background on a large piece of paper or poster board. Group and paste the figures onto the new background. If you have some face only portraits, draw bodies for them. Be sure to portray them in costumes of the period.
156. Scan old family photos into your computer and use them to create a background wallpaper for your computer. The background for this web page was created using Microsoft's Photo Editor and Paint programs.
157. Make a family heritage T-shirt using the same or similar tools listed in #156 above. After creating the design you want to use, purchase iron-on transfer material which is designed to be used in computer printers. Print out your t-shirt design, iron it on and wear it proudly.
158. **At one time it was popular to "hand-tint" black and white or sepia toned portraits to add color and interest to the photo. Photocopy an old black and white photograph of an ancestor. Using colored pencils, add skin tones, eye color or more to the photocopy. Do not color the original photograph!
159. Surnames, or last names, came into existence to help distinguish between individuals with the same given name. For example, a village might have had many men named 'John.' One method of distinguishing between these Johns would have been to refer to them by who their father was. Villages might have a John, son of John; John, son of Peter; John, son of Elroy; and John, son of William. This is why we now have surnames such as Johnson, Petersen, McElroy, and Fitzwilliam. This type of naming style is called Patronymics and accounts for about 30% of surnames in the United States. Every culture contains patronymic surnames. Look at the surnames in your family tree. How many of your surnames appear to be patronymically based names?
160. Another method of distinguishing between all the different Johns would have been to refer to them by their occupation. A village might have had John the baker, John the miller, John the farmer, John who delivered letters and John the blacksmith. This is why we now have surnames such as Baker, Miller, Farmer, Letterman, and Smith. Look at the surnames in your family tree. How many of these surnames appear to be occupation based names? Names that end in 'er or 'man quiet often indicate an occupation. You may have to use a language dictionary if your surname comes from a non-English speaking country.
161. Yet another way of assigning surnames was based on where a person lived. John from London, Jean from Paris, Johann from Berlin and Sean from Glasgow may very well have ended up with their city of origin as a surname. But most place surnames are based on some sort of topographical feature, natural or manmade, that was in or near the place where the surname originated. This style of naming is called Toponymics. A village or area might have a John who lived by the river, John who lived in the oak woods, John who lived on the hill, next to the church, and John who lived near the gate by the apple orchard. This is why we have surnames such as Rivers, Woods, Oaks, Church, Churchill and Applegate. Look at the surnames in your family tree. How many of these surnames appear to be topographically based names? Refer to a foreign language dictionary if necessary.
162. Other surnames were based on a particular physical or character trait that an individual possessed. A village full of Johns might have one that is short, one that is thin, one that has brown hair, one that is brave, one with a good singing voice, one that is wealthy, one that is old, one that is young, one that is faithful. This is why we now have surnames such as Short, Thinnes, Brown, Stout, Singer, Hardy, Rich, Olds, Young, Truman, Goodfellow, etc. Look at the surnames in your family tree. How many of these surnames appear to be descriptive names? Keep in mind that in jest an individual may have been labeled with a name that was opposite to the characteristic he/she possessed. Refer to a foreign language dictionary if necessary.
163. Get together with an older relative and fill out some "Then and Now" worksheets. The Legacy Project website provides many printable worksheets and a wealth of other intergenerational activities and projects.
164. Would your given name be the same if you lived in a non-English speaking country? For example, the English name John is known as Juan in Spanish speaking countries, Johann in Germany, Sean or Ian in Ireland and Scotland, Jean in France, Ivan in Russia and Giovanni in Italy. Can you find other ethnic versions of 'John'? What about your own name?
165. In many parts of the world it was and is common for people to name their estate, farm, ranch, and, less commonly, their house or apartment. The name may have to do with the family's name or with the location or geographic features of the property or home. Ask your parents or grandparents if they are aware of any names attached to their ancestral homes. For a family activity have everyone get together and brainstorm possible names for the home you live in now. Vote to choose a name for your home. Create a sign to display your home's new name.
166. Make a jigsaw puzzle of a family photo. Scan a family photo into your computer, enlarge it to the size you desire and print it on photographic or high-quality bond paper. Cover the back of the printed photo with acid-free spray fixative or other archival quality adhesive. Mount picture to heavy cardstock and let the adhesive dry thoroughly. If desired, cover the top of the picture with a sheet of laminating film. Cut the prepared picture into jigsaw puzzle-type shapes. You could write interesting facts about the family on the back of each piece. If you do not have a scanner and the picture is very old or not copyright protected, you can take it to a copy center and have it enlarged and printed on a color copier.
167. Explore satellite images of your ancestral homeland(s) by using the Google Earth web site or googlemaps web site.
168. Introduce your grandparents to Google Earth and help them find the home(s) they grew up in.
169. Read chapters 118, 119 and 120 in Alex Haley's novel Roots and discover the remarkable story of how Haley traced his African American heritage back to Africa.
170. Begin a collection of poems and stories that deal with family history and genealogy. Many are available on the Internet. A link to "We Are Seven" by William Wordsworth can be found near the bottom of this web page.
171. Learn more about the U.S. census in a fun and enjoyable way by exploring the U.S. Census Bureau's Kids' Corner page.
172. Expand on #37 above by being a true photograph detective. Family photographs often contain more than just smiling (or unsmiling) faces. What type of clothing are the people wearing? What type of hairstyle was popular? These facts can help you date the picture. Are the women wearing expensive jewelry? If so the family may have been wealthy. Is the man proudly wearing a military uniform or displaying a Masonic pin on his lapel? If so, learn more about the military insignia on his uniform or the Masons. Are there young children and older children with an age gap in between? If so, some children may have passed away. Photographs can tell us much about the people in them. Look closely at some family photographs and see if you can discover something you never noticed before.
173. **Make a family heirloom quilt with your family�s handprints. You can place the prints in a random pattern or design a family tree with the handprints as leaves. You will need acrylic craft paint or fabric paint, a disposable plate or pan to spread the paint in, and a light colored sheet (or, to make things easier, a solid color comforter). To begin, lay the laundered sheet on the floor. Be sure to place something under the sheet to protect the floor should the paint bleed through. Spread the paint in the pan. Have family members place their hand(s) in the paint and then press their print onto the sheet or comforter. Next have them write their name next to their print with a laundry marker. Hang the sheet or comforter in a protected place to dry. If using a sheet you will next need to assemble the batting and backing material and tie the layers together before finishing the edges. If you used a comforter, you are already finished. This might be a fun activity to do at your next family reunion. You could auction the quilt then and there to raise funds for the next reunion or give it as a gift to the oldest family member present.
174. Make a family history coloring book. Choose some favorite family photographs and enlarge with a scanner or photocopier so that each will fit nicely on a sheet of 8 1/2" x 11" paper (or paper size of your choice). Place another piece of copy paper on your sized copy and trace the outlines with a black marker. Assemble your book and give as a gift. Make multiple copies of your tracings for multiple gifts or to distribute at your family reunion.
175. Make paper dolls of your family and/or ancestors. On cardstock or medium weight cardboard, draw or trace body outlines for your dolls. Scan photographs of your family member's faces. Size to fit on the body outlines. Glue faces onto bodies. Research period clothing in books or on the Internet. Using the body outlines you made for guides, draw and color clothing to fit your paper dolls. Remember to leave fold-over tabs on the shoulders.
176. If you don't already have one, obtain a relationship chart. These fun and interesting charts help you determine how you are related to other individuals on your family tree. Many are available on the Internet. The term "removed" can be confusing at first. It simply indicates the number of generations that separate you and your relative.
177. A good how-to book for beginning genealogists is Do People Grow on Family Trees? Genealogy for Kids & Other Beginners by Ira Wolfman. In this book the author provides an easy to understand introduction to genealogy. Lots of photographs and illustrations are included, as well as charts for you to copy and use.
178. A limerick is a short, five-lined humorous poem. The first, second and fifth lines form a rhyming triplet and should all have the same number of syllables. The third and fourth lines rhyme too and form a couplet. These two lines are shorter but should both have the same number of syllables as well. Write a limerick about a humorous event in your life or the life of one of your ancestors. Here is a limerick that tells about how my grandparents met:
There once was a young man from Garner,179. Just for fun introduce your grandparents to the auction site ebay. Help them search for toys and other household items they remember fondly from their childhood or youth. Be prepared to write down any stories they might tell related to the items they find. Print out pictures and descriptions of the items to include in their personal history or remembrances.
180. Research holiday customs and traditions for your ancestral homeland. Incorporate one or more of these customs into your family's next holiday celebration.
181. Find out if there are any well-known, historical figures who lived in the same area at the same time as your ancestor. Read a biographical book or article about this famous person. The author who wrote about this person may give valuable insight concerning the lifestyle of the times and region in which your ancestor lived.
182. Help make is easier for yourself and others to locate vital records by participating in the FamilySearch Indexing project. It's fun, free, and you can list it on your college apps.
183. In her book Little House on the Prairie, author Laura Ingalls Wilder, goes into great detail as she shares with readers the fact that her father built the family's cabin. Rather than stating simply that "Pa put a door in the cabin," Wilder included an entire chapter describing exactly how her father built and installed the door. The result is a wealth of detail on the entire process of building the frame, door, hinges, and latch. Follow Wilder's example by writing about an everyday personal or family activity in great detail.
184. **Disney has a "Tiggerific" site that contains colorful and fun pedigree forms for children to print and fill out.
185. Many people have a great sense of personal pride in being descended from the original inhabitants or pioneers of a country, state, county, or city. Descendants of American Indians, America's Pilgrims, Utah's Mormon pioneers, Seattle's "Mercer Girls", and the penal colony convicts of Australia are just a few examples. Ask a relative if they are aware of any ancestral links to pioneer groups such as these. Is there an organization for descendants of the original inhabitants or pioneers of your city or county?
186. As youth, did your parents or grandparents belong to Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, F-H, Campfire or similar organizations? Ask them to describe their experiences and show you any awards they may have earned.
187. **Have a family history puppet show! Using photocopies of family photos, cut out the faces of your relatives and glue them to socks, plastic spoons, wooden sticks, etc. Use your puppets to act out stories from your family's history.
188. Before the invention of today's hand-held video recorders, your grandparents and great-grandparents probably used 8mm or Super-8 film cameras and projectors to record and view important family events and vacations. Ask your grandparents if they have any of these old family films and a projector on which to view them. A fun family activity will be to pop some popcorn and watch these old silent home movies as they go clickety-click through the projector they were made for. Keep in mind that the film may be old and brittle. At the first sign of difficulty while projecting, stop the film. After viewing the film on its original projector, take the films to a photo developing lab that can transfer the film's images to compact disks. Now your movies can be shared with and viewed often by those who don't have access to an 8mm projector.
189. Have you ever heard the terms "Black Sheep" or "Skeleton in the Closet"? In family history, these terms refer persons or events that are considered unflattering. Maybe you have a great-great-somebody among your ancestors who was a bank robber, horse thief, or murderer, or perhaps a great-great-somebody-else abandoned his family. Ask your relatives about possible skeletons in your family closet. Be aware that some family members may be unwilling to talk about any such persons or events.
190. Many governments and organizations have mottoes. Here are just a few:
Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America - �Be Prepared�Did you know that many families have mottoes as well? The web site Armorial Gold Heraldry lists mottoes for many Anglican surnames. Explore this site to see if any of your family names may have been associated with a motto at one time. If your surname is not Anglican, try performing a Google © search.
191. If you cannot find record of an existing family motto for your surname (or don't like the one you do find) initiate a family meeting to discuss the creation of a family motto. If your family chooses one, create a decorative print or needlework of the new motto to hang on a wall in your home.
192. **Read the picture book His Mother's Nose, written by Peter Maloney. This fun book deals with the joys and sorrows of family traits that are passed down to succeeding generations.
193. Many people write a will before their death. A will, often called a �Last Will and Testament,� directs how the individual wants his/her property (estate) distributed upon his/her death. Wills are particularly valuable in family history research when they indicate the names and relationships of family members who are to receive property from the deceased� estate. They can also give an indication of how wealthy a person was, his literacy level, and whether family relationships were friendly or bitter. Think about how you would want your property distributed. Who would you most like to give your books, video games, or your piggy bank to? Write a pretend will indicating how your property should be dispersed.
194. The process of distributing property after a death is called probate. The entire probate process can take many years and generate much more paperwork than just a will. These other papers can also provide interesting and helpful information for genealogists. These papers and the will were generally all kept together in one file called a probate file or packet. A great place to view sample probate files is at the Missouri Secretary of State web site. The State of Missouri is in the process of digitizing all probate files from 1802-1900 for the city of Saint Louis. This link will take you to the probate file for my 4th ggrandmother, Jemima Chick. Her will is located at the beginning of the file in Collection 1.
195. Locate a will or probate file for an ancestor. You will need to know where the ancestor died in order to search for these records. At this time the Saint Louis records are an exception as very few probate records are digitized and available on the internet. Many probate files have been filmed and are available on microfilm through LDS Family History Centers. Search their catalog online at www.familysearch.org. Click on Library and then on Library Catalog. Choose a place search and type in your county (top) and state (bottom). Choose the correct location. Click on probate records and then follow the links to see which records they have for specific time periods. Keep in mind that even if an individual did not write a will, and inventory or other document may still appear in the county's will book.
196. A blueprint is a drawing that shows the layout of the interior of your home. You don't have to be an architect or use special paper to make a blueprint of your home. Using plain copy paper (or graph paper if you want to draw your home to scale) draw the outline of your home as if you were looking at it from the air. Draw in the outlines of the rooms, closets, stairs, windows, and doors. If your home has more than one level, make a drawing for each level. You can make a blueprint drawing for every home you've lived in for your personal history. Encourage your parents and grandparents to make a blueprint drawing of the home(s) they have lived in and add these drawings to your family history.
197. Aside from holidays, most families have everyday, regular traditions that often take place unnoticed. For example, your mom may prepare the same dinner every Sunday or she might tuck you in with the same song or saying every night. Think about what regular occurrences might actually be family traditions that have gone unnoticed over the years. Write about these traditions in your journal or personal history.
198. Make your own family shield with free downloadable software from Owl and Mouse Educational Software.
199. Does your family send annual newsletters to friends and family during the December holiday season? These newsletters are a condensed version of your family's history. Gather copies of your family's newsletters and place them together in a binder. Decorate the binder for the holiday and make it available for your family to enjoy each holiday season. Copies of our family's Christmas newsletters can be viewed at this link.
200. Go to a fabric store and look through their clothing pattern books for historical clothing patterns. Choose a clothing style that one of your ancestors might have worn. Purchase a pattern and fabric suitable to the style. With the help of a skilled adult, create an outfit similar to what your ancestor would have worn. Hint: clothing patterns are expensive but most fabric stores regularly offer them at sale prices. Check your store's printed or online sales flyer to find out which pattern brands might be on sale.
201. Collect the signatures of your ancestors. Begin with your parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, if living, by giving each person a blank piece of white, acid free paper and having them sign their full name on it. Ask them if they have any letters or documents that might have signatures of other ancestors. Next, start searching for other documents such as wills, marriage certificates, contracts, etc. that might contain signatures. Your ancestors may have signed their names inside the cover of books they once owned as well. Photocopy or photograph the signatures to add to your collection. A signature is also a wonderful way to "caption" a framed photo.
202. **Make a family photo medallion to wear. You will need a clean metal lid from a concentrated, frozen juice can, a ribbon cut to a length that will fit easily over your head, a family photograph cut to fit inside the juice lid, white glue (Elmer's or similar) and if desired, beads for decoration. To make your medallion, cover the concave side of the juice lid with glue. Place both ends of the ribbon into the glue, cover the ends of the ribbon with more glue and set your family photo into the glue. If desired, squeeze more glue around the inside rim of the lid and ring your family photo with decorative beads. Let your medallion dry and then wear it with pride.
203. Listen to this StoryCorps story about how a son learned stories about the important people in his father's life. StoryCorps stories are available to read or listen to at www.npr.org.
204. Ask your parents and grandparents about non-relatives who played an important role in their lives. Write down the names and stories they share with you.
205. Think about non-relatives who have played an important role in your life. These people can be friends, teachers, clergy members, employers, or strangers that crossed your path. Write about these people in your journal.
206. Learn about the StoryCorps program on NPR. Learn what is involved in recording a story and think of someone you would like to interview who might be interested in having their story recorded for inclusion in the StoryCorps archives. Follow through.
207. Family Search has now posted lessons for intructors of family history. Lesson 3 involves introducing children and youth to family history. This printable lesson plan contains some great activity ideas. It also includes an example of a family bingo game card and a page from a family coloring book.
208. Create some family history bookmarks for fun, easy gifts to give to your relatives. Include a photograph, basic birth, marriage and death information, and interesting stories. Everytime they open a book, the recipients will be reminded of their forebears.
209. Make a family photo matching game. Scan photos of your ancestors. Print out two copies of each photo. Print them onto cardstock or mount paper copies onto construction paper so that no one can see who is in the photo from the back. The game will work best if all the photos are printed and cut to a uniform size. Place the photos face down on a table. Each player takes a turn trying to find the matching pair of photos. You can use a word processing program to add a personal design to your cards.
210. Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri has an excellent site listing cemetery based learning activities for youth. The site includes activities involving reading, writing, history and math.
Copyright © 2004-2009 Linda Mahood Morgan, Manassas, Virginia
All Rights Reserved.
Permission is granted for individuals to use this list of family history activities for home, church and classroom use, as well as home schooling, and school projects. This list of ideas may not be used for resale or commercial purposes. All printed copies of the information presented on this web site must contain the above copyright notice.
Feel free to include a link to this site
on your family-friendly web site.
View Eagle Scout service project ideas involving family and local history at: www.geocities.com/genealogy4kids/eagle.html
For LDS Young Women Value Project ideas involving family and local history, visit: www.geocities.com/genealogy4kids/yw.html
We Are Seven by William Wordsworth. An inspiring poem for those who love their ancestors as I do mine.
My Other Pages
You are visitor . Thank You!
(Genealogy for Kids, Family History for Kids)