Discussing family history with our children is a very good way, say many experts, to increase their connections to family. This includes our family traditions, stories, myths and holiday rituals.
Today - with the many tools and features of global family history site MyHeritage.com - it is easier than ever to record, preserve and transmit your family’s unique story to your children and down through future generations.
Each of our families has a unique history, which should be documented and shared at holidays and whenever the generations come together. Although our children may be the youngest generation today, tomorrow they will be someone else’s ancestors!
According to a New York Times article: “The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned.”
"Knowing more about family history is the single biggest predictor of a child's emotional well-being. Grandparents can play a special role in this process, too,” says author Bruce Feiler, in his “Secrets of a Happy Family.”
Studies show that the more we know about ourselves and where we come from, the better prepared we are to meet challenges. Our children learn and understand that they are part of something larger than themselves.
The latest research shows that we should be discussing genetic health factors with our parents and grandparents, while plenty of people are family history enthusiasts, and are exploring their heritage online. Sharing multigenerational knowledge in a direct way is a great way to transmit and preserve this information.
Here are a few simple guidelines to beginning your family history:
- Download a printable family tree or start a family tree site at MyHeritage.com
- Write down what you know, beginning with yourself.
- Learn about your family’s immigration and name variations.
- Are there any family heirlooms or memoirs?
- Search for records, photographs and documents.
- Look at online sources, such as US Census, newspaper collections and military records.
- Talk to others and join a local genealogical society for more assistance.
- Preserve and share the information.
Make sure to interview the older generations and video/audio record what they know. There are various sources to learn about questions to ask, such as the American Folklife Center: Oral History Interviews, Oral History Association: Do Oral History, UCLA Center for Oral History Research: Interviewing Guidelines. Need questions to ask relatives? Try this link: http://fcs.tamu.edu/families/aging/reminiscence/family_history_questionnaire.php.
To make it even easier to share the information with family members, create a MyHeritage.com family site online to store - and to share - all the information you will discover. The technology tools and features at MyHeritage – many of which run automatically and continuously compare millions of trees for possible connections – are simple to use and can make finding connections easy.
Go to MyHeritage.com and create a tree with your name and that of your parents, and continue to add to it. Invite other family members to collaborate and share the detective hunt with you by contributing photographs, and other information. Upload photographs, documents, audio and video recordings. Think about uploading family recipes, or transcribing the journal of an ancestor (if you are lucky enough to have inherited one).
Activities for children:
- For very young children: have them name everyone in their immediate households, including pets, toys and even imaginary friends. Preschoolers might add aunts, uncles and cousins.
- Give children copies of family photographs (labeled) that they can keep in a special container or box. Talk to them about the people in the photos and how they are related.
- Older children can use oral history questions to interview the older generations in a video recording at a holiday celebration.
- Take them to visit the places you lived as a child, or those of their grandparents.
MyHeritage is a family history network helping millions of families around the world discover and share their legacy online, while transforming family history into an activity that’s accessible, exciting and easier than ever before. It offers unique social tools, massive historical content and powerful search and data matching technologies, and accessible in 40 languages. For more information, visit www.myheritage.com
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