Here are 10 activities your family can do together to learn more about their history and how the actions and decisions of their ancestors affected who they are today. These activities will help to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation for your foundations and will provide a more complete record of your distinctive history that will be treasured for generations to come.
Make a Family Tree
Ask one person to sketch a family tree on a large piece of paper while everyone contributes information. Encourage Grandma and Grandpa to share what they remember of the older generations and have the younger children locate their positions on the tree. Later, make decorative copies of the family tree and give one to each family member. Frame them for a lovely gift!
Start a Family Journal
Recruit your fastest write to record the stories and information in a journal that will come to light throughout the afternoon or evening. Divide the journal into four sections: one for individual 'Family Members', one for 'General Family' stories and information, one for 'Family Gratitude', and one for 'Legacy'. Ask a lot of questions to get the best stories! Later, transfer this priceless information to a more durable keepsake book or post to an online family wesite for all to enjoy.
Put Faces to Names
Blow the dust off the box, bag or album containing old family photos and together, identify the subjects in the pictures. Discuss where that person fits into the family tree and who they most resemble. Note any other historical information that is known. This is also the perfect time to label any unlabeled photos with names, dates, ages, locations, and any other relevant information. Use a soft lead pencil on pre-1950's photos and a felt tip marker on post 1950 photos. Never use a ball point pen as it can damage the photos.
Old photos are fragile and cannot be replaced once lost or damaged. Consider scanning the images to computer or disc so they can be preserved digitally, a more resilient format and one that can be shared easily. Digital images can also be repaired if they are damaged and organized into a video slide show documenting your family history.
Shine the spotlight on Grandma and Grandpa and encourage them to talk candidly about their experiences growing up. Go ahead, ask questions as often a little probing can reveal a treasure trove of fascinating stories and family history. Consider recording these stories in video or audio format so help future generations can connect on a more personal level. For something a bit more special, a Family Documentary Family Documentary can capture their life story and your family history by weaving a filmed interview with photographs, maps, and other memorabilia to create a modern day 'moving' portrait.
Where in the World
Using a world map or globe, point out where the family originated from and the different places they lived. Ask the children to trace the route the family may have taken between the locations. Discuss why, when and how the family came to America (or their current location) and the challenges and emotions they faced throughout their journey. A quick internet search can reveal the historical context of their immigration.
Looking over the Family Tree, discuss what life was like for each generation; their professions, living conditions, education, opportunities, and limitations, and how their experiences affected the next generation and ultimately the family as it is today. Have the children make a list of all the different family professions.
We are Family
Identify any family traditions, characteristics, family traits, values, and practices that have been passed down through the generations. Discuss why, when and where they may have begun and and their significance within the family.This is a great time to ask Grandma why she makes the special dish for Thanksgiving, or to compare your artistic skills with Grandpa.
Ask each family member identify an experience or decision an ancestor (or current family member) made that contributed to a better life for their descendants. Discuss what their perspective may have been at the time, and whether they could have imagined the impact their experience or decision would ultimately have their descendants.
Leave a Legacy
Finally, ask each family member to reflect upon what they would like their own family contribution-their legacy-to be and why. Encourage everyone to share how they envision their contribution to impact on future generations. Now, take a portrait and label it with names, the date and your location and add it to the family journal.
Your family history changes every day. Begin a new family tradition by using these activities to embrace and celebrate the past while guiding you family as they look to the future.