Sunday, April 24, 2011

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Thrill of Teaching Historical Research and Genealogy to Youth

I would like to thank all those who gave me tips about teaching genealogy to young people. I talked to numerous people I know, both genealogists, educators and/or parents, and also asked for tips on Facebook, Twitter, and Afrigeneas, and my Find Your Folks blog.

I am excited to announce that after months of planning, I have finally begun conducting youth genealogy classes and workshops. Entering into this realm has not been as quick as I anticipated, but we all know that “good things come to those who wait.”

Opportunity #1
Eight Week Program in Partnership With a Local City Agency. I have partnered with a local city agency and am working with two persons from this organization in a program in which the three of us designed called Back in the Day - Faith-Based Institution Historical Research Program. Both of these individuals have history degrees, but their full-time positions are working with youth or managing youth related programs rather than something in the field of history.

We decided to focus on collecting and documenting church history in our city because we believed that religious institutions were a great place to start in teaching young people how to do historical and family research. The community in which we are teaching and researching is predominately African American and since historically major movements such as the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s have been ushered in through religious institutions, we felt that it was fitting to begin our youth research project through these institutions. We began planning the program in late September and sent out invitations to older churches in our community in October to participate in this program.

Response was slow, but two churches eventually committed to participate in our pilot program along with six young people from their congregations who are ages 13-16. Each church has an adult mentor from their congregation who also attends the sessions with their youth. We started the program two weeks ago with an interest meeting and began the first week of the eight week program on last week. Both the adult mentors and the young people seem to be getting a lot out the program and I am energized by their enthusiasm each night I teach. My two partners in this endeavor will also be teaching the youth during designated weeks in this eight week program so that will be a relief for me during those weeks, and I Iook forward to just just sitting, observing, and enjoying these sessions.

At the end of the eight weeks, the youth are expected to 1) write a report summarizing their research findings; and 2) prepare some type of creative project/activity such as a skit, poster board display, PowerPoint presentation, etc. which will be showcased in a program for their families, friends, church members, and others.

Opportunity #2
My Family History: Link to the Past, Bridge to the Future. This will be a three hour workshop which I am scheduled to conduct at a local historical and cultural center in May. The goal of this workshop is to introduce young people to methods to get started in tracing their family history in hopes that they may begin the discovery process to find a link to their past and a bridge to their future.

Now it’s SHOWTIME after all these months of waiting. I’m glad that I thought to buy school supplies such as paper, pencils, pens, pencil boxes and other supplies during the back-to-school sale last year. All of these things are coming in handy now.

I'm looking forward to many more opportunities to share my genealogy and historical research knowledge with young people. I hope that other genealogists and family researchers who have not done so already, will also find opportunities to share their knowledge with the young people of their communities.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Alternative Ancestral Family Tree Styles

As I began looking for books and resources on teaching genealogy to young people, I hoped to find some tips on addressing family trees of nontraditional families. In our age of divorces, single parenting, and in some cases parents of the same gender, this is a valid concern for today’s teachers of youth genealogy. One book I discovered which is devoted to youth genealogy is Climbing Your Family Tree by Ira Wolfman. This book has a companion website which includes various downloadable forms. Click here for book site.

The companion website for this book includes a traditional style family tree which can be used by youth who know the names of ancestors on both sides of their families. But what about the youth who only knows the name of one parent (usually the mother)?*

Using a traditional family tree may likely stir up negative emotions in young people with an unknown or absentee parent, or even a nontraditional family which is headed by by same-sex parents. It is wise for youth genealogy teachers to be sensitive to the needs of today’s youth and let them design their family tree as they see fit, even if it does not fit the traditional two-parent structure.

Pyramid Style Family Tree

Two nontraditional or alternative ancestral tree styles are available for downloading on the companion website of the Climbing Your Family Tree book. The Pyramid style tree or the Fan or Rainbow style tree allow young people to either just focus on one side of the family or draw lines to divide the levels for both parental sides or more. The more could include step and/or adoptive parents.

Fan or Rainbow Style Family Tree

Although the focus of this book and the family trees on the companion website are designed for young people, these trees could very well be used by adults. Those of us who use genealogy software have numerous styles to choose from to display our family trees and it was good to find some alternative tree style ideas on paper that can be used to teach genealogy.

*Note-There are many adults who may be in this same situation of not knowing the name of their father. I have met several of them during my genealogy presentations.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Genealogy Comic Book - Hunting For Your Heritage

This comic book, Hunting for Your Heritage, is a fantastic full-color book which introduces youth to genealogy. It is also a great book for adults who want an easy and simplified explanation on how to begin researching their family history. The storyline of the book is about four young people who inquire about to search their family histories. Through this story of their journey, readers of any age can learn how to get started and proceed in tracing their family history. Thanks to genealogist Shelly Murphy for introducing me to this book.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Youth Genealogy Workshop

I am pleased to announce that I will be conducting a Youth Genealogy Workshop entitled "Link to the Past, Bridge to the Future" on May 21, 2011 at the Newsome House, 2803 Oak Avenue in Newport News, VA at 11:00 a.m. For more information on the Newsome House, visit their website at

Young people often search for relevancy in school subjects such as social studies or history. Many often fail to recognize that their families and ancestors are part of history. Genealogy offers young people a unique way of studying history and linking to the past. Further genealogy provides a bridge to the future for young people as they discover their ancestors, their lives and times.

The goal of this three-hour workshop is to introduce young people to methods to get started in tracing their family history in hopes that they may begin the discovery process to find a link to their past and a bridge to their future.