Bookshelf: Genealogy, The Next Generation

Bookshelf: Genealogy, The Next Generation

This Family History Month, spark kids' interest in their roots with these five enterprising books.

1. Evie Finds Her Family Tree by Ashley B. Ransburg (Indiana Historical Society Press). Written for grade school children, Evie Finds Her Family Tree is a delightful story that puts a new spin on teaching children about family history. The book doesn’t concentrate on names, dates and places; instead, we follow Evie on her quest to find her family tree in her yard. The holly reminds Evie of her dad, the magnolia smells like her mother’s perfume, the oak sparks memories of her grandpa, and the maple reminds her of her sister. In this uncomplicated introduction to genealogy, Evie discovers unique individuals in her family tree. And although the message is simplistic, it’s powerful, and will surely trigger questions from and conversations with youngsters about their family tree. The book also includes a family tree wall chart you can fill out with your child.

2. My Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandfather Was a Warrior! by Riccardo Francaviglia and Margherita Sgarlata (Lobster Press). Geared toward children ages 3 to 8, this book tells the tale of Mark, a young boy who’s visited one morning by his fifth-great-grandfather, a Viking warrior. This Viking ancestor accompanies Mark to school, and Mark learns that his own brains and his brawn — even his talent for drawing — are much like his relative’s. The colorful illustrations, as well as the cleverly woven story, are sure to capture youngsters’ attention.

3. One Tiny Twig by Dan Rhema (Mesquite Tree Press). On Emily Twig’s 14th birthday, she receives a family heirloom and a mystery to solve: Where did her ancestor Twig come from? With help from her grandfather, Emily learns how to use problem-solving skills to follow each clue as it unfolds in records. Emily first finds her ancestors in the cemetery and then in census records, where she learns the Twigs emigrated from England. From there, Emily discovers her family came through Ellis Island in 1892, the year the station opened its doors to immigrants. For a picture book, this story’s content is relatively sophisticated; it’s geared toward children ages 9 to 12. You’ll also find a companion “curriculum guide” with age-appropriate family history activities online at <>.

4. Roots for Kids: A Genealogy Guide for Young People by Susan Provost Beller (Genealogical Publishing Co.). After you’ve piqued your youngster’s curiosity about family history, move on to Roots for Kids. Although this book is based on a 12-week course the author designed for her fourth-grade students, its skill level makes it suitable even for tweens and teens. Each chapter presents a 45-minute session for classroom or home use (many include homework assignments). After a brief introduction to genealogy, the author covers oral history interviewing and basic genealogical records, such as censuses and vital records. Beller also recommends taking children on trips to the town or county clerk’s office, libraries and historical societies, and gives an overview of state and national records. An appendix provides blank family tree charts and forms.

5. Youth in Family History by Starr Hailey Campbell (Creative Continuum). Ready to get the next generation interested and involved in your family tree? You’ve come to the right place. Campbell’s easy-to-read and attractively illustrated guide will help you prod your kids or grandkids with innovative activities. The author addresses the challenges you’ll face (“It’s boring, Grandma Lucy!”) and shows you how to overcome them. Campbell uses social history and tangible items such as family heirlooms and cookbooks — instead of dry names and dates — to teach about genealogy. She provides lessons on how to preserve family memories as well. If you’ve been searching for ways to get your young relatives involved in genealogy, this book will give you the inspiration and the ideas to do it.

From the October 2006 issue of Family Tree Magazine.

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