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  • The Computer Genealogist: Kids Genealogy: 30 Genealogy Sites for Young People and Teachers

    Maureen A. Taylor

    Published Date : April 19, 2002

    Where do I come from?
    The first time my child came home from school with family history homework, he was in kindergarten. As a professional genealogist, I immediately called the teacher, intrigued by how she was going to use it. A few years have passed since then and many schools now use family history to teach a variety of subjects. It can help students understand social studies and history, serve as a creative writing assignment, or illustrate a mathematics problem. Many states have incorporated genealogy into the core curriculum. If you are a teacher assigning family history homework please keep in mind that sometimes adoptees and children of non-traditional families can feel left out of this type of assignment. Genealogy can be a wonderful way to show that every family is unique and explore the historical context in which our ancestors lived.

    For the Parent or Grandparent:
    So what do you do when your child or grandchild comes to you for advice and assistance with a family history project? Here are a few basic suggestions.

    The Assignment

    1. Find out how in-depth the assignment is, the teacher's expectations, and how the information will be used.
      In one child's kindergarten class a teacher asked students to gather the names and places of birth of three generations to be used to illustrate differences and similarities. A beautiful wall chart of the world appeared on the side of the classroom showing the origins of each member of the class. It was a fascinating presentation! In high school the same data can be used to investigate the processes of immigration and assimilation.
    2. Stick to the homework assignment.
      As genealogists we have accumulated family history for future generations and ourselves. Don't overwhelm the teacher and the student with excessive amounts of information. Treat this as an opportunity to encourage an interest in family history with the expectation that the child will be curious enough to ask for more outside of the classroom.
    3. Remember that this is the child's homework, not yours.
      It can be too easy in the process of helping a child with an assignment like this to actually do the work for him or her. If you find that this is a temptation, have an older student look through your research unassisted and invite questions. If the child is too young to understand your charts and research notes, use family photographs, documents, and artifacts to tell the story. They will learn more from having to formulate the questions than they will from having you give them the data.
    4. Enjoy the time together.
      Genealogy is a great family hobby. The process of discovery can lead children to gain a better understanding of what the lives of their ancestors were like. Use the time you spend together to tell family stories and look at photographs.
    5. Explore Internet resources.
      For the grandparent, parent or student that doesn't know where to find information online to help with those genealogy assignments, the amount of family history sites on the web can be overwhelming. This is a great opportunity for young people to use their computer skills or develop new ones. What you can find are sites that offer a wide variety of material from resources to games. These websites are a great way to take a school assignment and turn it into a multi-generational family history!


    Boy ScoutsBadge
    The Boy Scouts of America is one organization that issues a badge of merit for genealogy. The complete list of requirements can be found on their website. Use the sites listed in the How To for assistance with the requirements.

    Since 1986, the National Genealogical Society in honor of Milton Rubincam has given an award for a genealogy written by a young person. Applicants must be in the 8th through 12th grade. All submissions must be received by March 1st. The prize consists of $500.00, a one-year membership to NGS, and publicity in the NGS newsletter.

    Family Saplings
    Started by an educator and genealogist this bookstore only carries historical and genealogical merchandise for young people.

    Now you can see the exact calendar that your ancestors used from the year 1 A.D. forward.

    A Genealogical Glossary of Terms
    If you come across a word in a family document that puzzles you, look it up in this dictionary of terms commonly found in genealogical research.

    A Web of Online Dictionaries
    You will not believe the vast resources that exist online courtesy of Bucknell University. Access multilingual dictionaries for contemporary and extinct languages as well as thesauri and other language assistance.

    Brae's Genealogy for Kids
    A librarian prepared this list of "kid-friendly genealogy links". Content and advertising were two of the criteria for inclusion on this site.

    Cyndi’s List
    This is one of the most popular web directories for genealogical information. Cyndi Howells created this site to help genealogists locate websites that exist for family history. She maintains the site by regularly adding new links and categories. It is very well organized and easy to use.

    Each day Ancestry offers free use of some of its newer databases. While you can search names using the global search feature of the site be aware that a large number of the hits will be to items available only to members.

    Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
    This website offers users the ability to search the vast resources of the FamilySearch programs: International Genealogical Index (IGI), Ancestral File, and the Library Catalog. Once you have the film number and information from the web search, you can order films through your local Family History Center. A list of centers is available via this website.
    Use this site to create a family tree online and post it on a home page, search for family members mentioned on the web, search free databases and read articles by leading genealogists.

    Family Pages
    Try searching for your surname in the Rootsweb Surname list.You'll be surprised how many people share your surname. You might even be able to connect with long-lost cousins. Parents should assist young people with sending and receiving emails to be sure that the content is appropriate.

    Word Search
    Have some fun with genealogy! Try to find the 42 words commonly associated with genealogy in this online word search.

    Young people love the color and pageantry of heraldic design yet heraldry is one of the least understood facets of genealogy. Here is a website that in dictionary fashion defines terms and color (tinctures) used in heraldic symbolism. It even includes a bibliography.

    How To
    There are several online family history lessons for kids (and adults).

    The oldest and largest genealogy site contains an online course intended for adult or advanced high school students.
    Three online lessons instruct middle school students how to create a family timeline, record an oral history, and learn more about names. This site also includes historical timelines for ethnicities that live in the Boston area and the neighborhoods in which they settled.

    US GenWeb
    The United States GenWeb project is dedicated to making genealogical information and resources available on the Internet. It has a page for kids that provides links and includes a section on how to research a family tree. They also provide a query feature called Kidz Forum and a mailing list.

    Have a document in another language or need to communicate overseas? There are several translators available on the Internet. Two of the best are available at:

    I-Tools is a universal translator for the following languages: English, French, Danish, Spanish, Swedish, German, Italian, Turkish, Portuguese, Dutch, Russian, Czech, Slovenian, Romanian, Latvian, Serbian, Croatian, Polish, Greek, Chinese, Japanese and Latin.

    This site can translate nine different languages including Spanish, Portuguese and Italian.

    Surname Distribution Maps
    Just for fun, enter your surname and find out where the most people with your surname live. You can even find a historical overview based on census data from 1850, 1880 and 1990.

    Ever Wonder… is a site that helps you discover the meaning of your first name. It includes links to sites that contain similar material.

    Our Ancestors Nicknames
    Find out what the given name of those elusive ancestors might be based on their nicknames in this online article by Edmund West.

    Place Names is an online world gazetteer for contemporary and historical place names.

    Oral History
    Using Oral History: Guidelines for Doing Oral History
    Created by the American Memory Project of the Library of Congress it contains simple instructions for interviewing friends and relatives. Sample questions and legal forms are provided.

    While no genealogical organization offers memberships specifically geared toward young people there are several organizations of which you should be aware.

    National Genealogical Society
    Established in 1903, they help over 17,000 members with their research through publications and programs. They also have a new online genealogy course.

    New England Historic Genealogical Society
    NEHGS has been collecting genealogical material since 1845. Special features include online journals, articles on New England research, and their library catalog . They also have a section of resources specifically for familiesand teachers.

    For Teachers Only
    Suppose you are preparing a lesson plan based on family history and need some curriculum assistance, where would you go? The web can connect you with other professionals who are working on similar projects, provide curriculums and even help you take your students on a virtual tour of history.

    California State University
    Here is a collection of sample lesson plans created by other teachers and links to other useful resources.

     History/Social Studies Web Site for K-12 Teachers
    The Education Source named this site one of the "Top Ten Teaching Sites for the 21st Century, because it is on the forefront of education, providing innovative, informative, and interactive tools that help educators and parents prepare children for success in the 21st century."

    National Education Association
    The Gateway to Educational Materials (GEM) provides access to thousands of lesson plans, curriculums and education resources. This is a project of the U.S. Department of Education's National Library of Education and is a special project of the ERIC Clearinghouse on Information & Technology.

    This resource of humanities based websites profiles and links you to sites judged by educators and endorsed by the National Endowment for the Humanities to be the best. If you are looking for projects that help you create lesson plans and provide a context for your class work, then this is the only site you will need.

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