“Mom’s Night at the ‘Genny’” Ensign, Jan. 1988, 72–73
For a long time I had realized the importance of researching our family history, but I wondered how I, a mother of five young children, could find the time for it. My husband and I discussed the problem and agreed that I would spend one night a week at our branch genealogical library. As my enthusiasm for the work grew, I found that my one night a week extended into longer hours of research.
I first began to realize that my children were interested in my work when, one night as I got ready to go to the library, my five-year-old son asked, “Mommy, where are you going?”
Before I could answer, our six-year-old quickly piped up, “Oh, she’s going to the Genny!” Since then, our whole family has affectionately referred to my research as “going to the Genny.”
Sensing my children’s interest, I began to include them in everything—from starting their own Books of Remembrance and journals to learning how to look up records. As a result, they have come to see the importance of genealogical work and have learned to love it.
Here are just a few ideas you can use to help your children develop an interest in family history—and have fun at the same time:
Trips to the Library. In our family, each child takes a turn going to the family history (genealogical) library with me. We keep these visits quite short for the younger children, since their attention spans are short and we don’t want to disturb other patrons or librarians. For the most part, the visits are just fun times to be with Mom and to see how the machines work. But those of our children who can read are beginning to learn about different records and how to use them.
Family Outings. Some holidays can be turned into fun-filled, fact-finding trips. For example, on one trip we visited cemeteries where our ancestors are buried.
“Ancestor Answers.” Make your own family history game—with questions varying in difficulty according to your children’s ages. Questions such as “Which great-grandfather was baptized in the ocean?” or “Why did Grandma come to Canada?” allow the whole family to get to know their ancestors, living and dead.
Storybooks. Make a picture book with simple stories about your ancestors. You may want to leave out most of the dates (young children may not be interested in them) and include stories about how your ancestors lived and what they did. Often, such stories include examples of courage, faith, and charity. Our children have even used some of them when giving talks in church.
Books of Remembrance. Give your children their own books of remembrance. As the children learn to print, let them fill out their own family group sheets and pedigree forms. It may take them a long time, and the results may not be as neat as you would like. But children love to fill out forms, and doing their own genealogy helps them to feel important. As they get older, they may replace these printed forms with neater ones, but it is important for them to start now.
Book of Remembrance Gifts. For birthdays, Christmas, and baptisms, our mothers have given our children gifts of pictures, pedigree charts, and histories for their books of remembrance. These are welcome additions that will be loved and cherished for years.
Involvement. Discuss your research and findings with your children. Even though some of them can’t read or aren’t quite sure which ancestor I’m talking about, my children get as ecstatic as I do when I find a new certificate or a bit of information. Once we discovered a microfilm with a picture of the children’s great-great-great-great-grandmother. As the children took turns looking at the film, you could see the excitement in their eyes. They didn’t know her name or exactly where she fit on the family tree, but she was a relation—and that was important to them!
Getting my children involved in genealogical work has helped move the work along faster and has helped them understand rather than resent the time I spend doing research. And I have discovered that I do have time for genealogy. I’m grateful that I started doing it now instead of waiting until I had more time and the children were older. It has opened many avenues for family togetherness. And with the family’s interest and support, I find even more time for doing research and temple work.—Faye B. Woolley, Raymond, Alberta