10 Ways To Pass On Your Family History To Your Children

In a world where families may live many miles apart, how can you pass along family history to your children?

Even if you do not consider yourself to be a historian, the truth is, you hold the history that is a key to your children's and your future grandchildren's hearts. Incorporate your family history into your everyday life, and watch your children begin to feel pride in their ancestry, as well a sense of belonging in what can sometimes feel like a chaotic world.

1. Keep a scrapbook, and include older photos from yours and your husband's childhood as well, with plenty of photos of grandmas and grandpas. Be sure to use archival materials, such as acid free paper, so that your photos do not get damaged. Spend time with your children developing the scrapbook, and telling the stories that surround the pictures. Explain to your children that the scrapbook will become part of the family history that they, too, can pass along to their own children.

2. Take a vacation to one or more of the spots where the children's grandparents grew up. See if any of the old school buildings and churches that they attended are still intact, and visit them. Talk about what it was like for your parents to go to school back in those days.

3. Use some of the items that have been passed down in your family as d├ęcor around your home. Having an antique mirror from your great grandmother, for example, lends an aura of history to your home, and you can instill a sense of wonder in your children when they realize that their great-great grandmother used to check her hair in the mirror before leaving the house.

4. Keep a box of memorabilia from your childhood that includes items that your parents and grandparents used. An old dress, some silverware and especially toys give children a sense of their family's past.

5. At bedtime, instead of always reading a book, tell a story about one of the children's ancestors. Children will take delight in hearing about how great-uncle William tamed a wild horse or how while exploring the wilderness, their grandfather was once bitten by a rattlesnake. Adventurous stories can demonstrate the resiliency of your family and instill a sense of familial pride in your children.

6. Visit the children's grandparents as often as you can. Encourage your children to ask questions such as how grandma met grandpa, and what it was like to be the age the children are now at the time when the grandparents were growing up. You may find that your parents tell your children stories that you have never heard before, adding to your own sense of family history. Even seemingly insignificant stories, such as the time the dog killed the chickens, can be a learning experience for children that brings them closer to their grandparents.

7. Make a book of oral history with the children's grandparents. Older children can tape stories and transcribe them later. Include pictures if possible, and make a copy for the children as well as one for their grandparents. If you like, you could interview a number of relatives from one side of the family, and include all of their stories in one book. This would be a wonderful Christmas gift for many people, and bring the family closer together, providing the stories are not divisive in any way.

8. Have children create a time capsule to commemorate your immediate family history. Kids can include objects such as a newspaper, a toy, a current book, writing utensils, whatever their imaginations can dream up! Explain that the objects in the time capsule will be opened by a future generation, and will provide a glimpse into the past for those future explorers. Another option is that the time capsule can be sealed with a promise that it will not be opened until the children's own children have reached a certain age. Some people seal time capsules into their homes when remodeling, others may simply keep the items in a locked chest. This decision, of course, depends on if you want to keep the time capsule in the family. Regardless, it will make children think about how their family is unique, and the place that they occupy in time relative to their ancestors.

9. Embark on a family genealogy project. There are many websites available now with subscription online databases of genealogical records. Other websites may have military records, records of Ellis Island immigrants and other helpful resources. You may also request records from the National Archives that will help you to research your family's background. (www.nara.gov/genealogy)

10. Try keeping a family web log that any member of the family can add to. Children will enjoy posting pictures, and you can post accounts that you remember from your childhood, bringing a smile to other family member's faces. Encourage other relatives to post as well, adding whatever memories and pictures they can. Of course, people will want to add only the memories that are appropriate for children to share in at this time. Your blog can function as an ongoing family reunion, which can be especially valuable for families who are separated by large distances.

A sense of family is important for children. It is easy to feel "disconnected" in today's society, and the efforts you make to educate your children about their family background will pay off for generations to come.

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