Friday, March 23, 2012

Branching Out: Genealogy for High School, a review

Family history is so important, especially as it pertains to the younger generations. It is up to us to ensure the stories, lives and accomplishments of our ancestors are honored and preserved for future generations.

Drumming up youth interest in genealogy is no easy task, however. The term connotes images of old stuff, boring stories and other topics at which teens love to roll their eyes. How do we teach the simple joys of genealogy while sharing the important stories of our families’ histories?

Noted genealogist, speaker, author and mother of 3 Jennifer Holik provides an exciting solution with Branching Out:Genealogy for High School, Lessons 1-15.

Branching Out part 1 is a series of 15 lessons geared toward the teen audience. Each lesson includes a goal, vocabulary words, assigned reading, lesson and activity along with some worksheets and projects.

For example, lesson 6 asks the student to collect family history information then write a story based on those facts. Links to online articles pertaining to this subject are provided. The task involves utilizing information gathered in the previous lessons to create a sound family history biography. The results include a solid written genealogy piece as well as expanded family history knowledge for the student.

The author does recommend the purchase of certain genealogy books (a list is provided), but many of them and the assigned articles can be found online or through the public library. A 3-ring binder and basic school supplies (pen, paper, etc.) are needed to execute the lessons.

Holik builds a solid family history foundation from lesson 1, letting each task build from the previous ones. Students also gain experience in research, writing, interviewing and analytical techniques on top of the treasured stories they will learn about their relatives and ancestors. There’s even a gentle lesson in etiquette, as students are instructed to write thank you notes to the family members who granted interviews. The final result also includes a notebook suitable for any budding genealogist, filled with records, information, stories and written pieces that describe the student’s family history.

Branching Out: Genealogy for High School, Lessons 1-15 is the first in a groundbreaking series of genealogy education tools from Jennifer Holik. They are suitable for a homeschool or traditional curriculum*, supplemental education, independent study, service project or any other educational opportunity.

* I am not an expert in homeschool or  general education. After reviewing these lessons, I feel they are of good quality and would incorporate them in my own curriculum if I was homeschooling or teaching in the classroom.

For more information, see

[Disclosure: Jennifer Holik is my colleague and friend. I received a review copy of this book. The opinions are my own. --A]


  1. Thanks, Amy, for your review of Jennifer's book. I was so happy to hear about her series. I'm a retired history teacher and always began the year with a unit on personal family history. I had to make mine up as I went along, so it's really good to know that others will have a guide. I'm glad that you liked it because that's a good indicator that teachers will like it as well! :)

  2. Amy, have you seen this NYPL video? Loved it! 2:42