Wednesday, June 3, 2009

In the Good Old Summertime

School's out. Kids and grandkids are in your midst. How does one satisfy his or her genealogical pursuits while supervising and entertaining children? If they share your interest in genealogy, you are very fortunate! For the rest of us, here are some ideas for getting children to buy into your genealogy fix:

The Helper
Turn your children into helpers. Young kiddos probably can't do much, but you can give them paper and pens to "write notes" while you're busy copying what you need. Put your older grade-school readers to work looking for surnames in books, or even headstones if you're at a snake-free well-manicured cemetery. Technically savvy tweens and teens may be willing to help you digitize your work, create spreadsheets or websites.

The Bribe
Find out what your kids like and buy yourself a little genealogy time by making them an offer they can't refuse. When it comes to my toddler niece, stickers are like money and money talks. With a few packages of stickers, we know we can get 20 minutes of free time while she places stickers on the floor, the cat and her own legs. For my son who is older, the promise of a lunch at the location of his choice buys me some time at a library in the next county. For longer road trips, I've found that a hotel with a pool reduces a lot of complaints from my peanut gallery. We spend the a.m. doing boring genealogy and the later hours at the pool.

The Barter
I use this approach often with my son and it's become my favorite. I like genealogy. He likes train signals. On brief half-day trips, he waits patiently while I retrieve whatever I came for. After that is over, I take him to nearby railroad crossings so he can take pictures of the signals. This is a good bonding time as we share each other's interests--and by that I mean he tolerates my genealogy and I get an earful about the history of railroad signal technology.

The Education in Disguise
If you know your family's history and have a knack for storytelling, you can get kids interested in the places to which you are dragging them. The boring field is suddenly the location where their great-great-great-great grandfather perished in the Civil War. This little nowhere town is where your ancestor ran the only movie house for miles. Ask the kids to imagine living in a time and place with only one little movie theater and NO TELEVISION! They may pretend they don't care, but it will resonate.

Increased child care duties in the summer shouldn't force you to table your genealogy until school starts again. With an understanding of your children's or grandchildren's interests and a little creativity, you can include them in your genalogical pursuits and expose them to their family history.

Please note that some of your genealogical destinations--such as library research rooms--may not admit children, so check before you make plans. With that out of the way, get your kids of their butts and get out there this summer for some good genealogy-themed bonding time.


  1. Amy,

    Great post! I will keep all of this in mind as mine are 4, 8 and almost 12. So I've got a range that's hard to entertain and pursue my interest in genealogy as well.

    Though I found two years ago that a library was not a good place for a high pitched voice two year old girl. But I may try it again this year now that she's older.

    Now to get my car fixed and back......hum.

  2. Great ideas! I always take my kids to Clayton in the summertime. They help me do some researching. They look up certain surnames in the indices, find them in the book, and mark them for me. Then I look at each one for relevance. [But I bribe them with lunch afterwards...]


  3. This is an excellent post! I love the ideas and stories you've shared. I too am now finding ways to get my kids interested. In our case, I traded frozen yogurt treats for a hour at a local cemetery so I could photograph tombstones. :-)