Congratulations to our 2023 Winners

We are pleased to announce the winners of the 2023 Young Family Historians Essay Contest. The contest invited students in grades 4-12 across the country to explore what they learned about themselves, the community, and the nation by reflecting on a story from their personal family history. The winning essays were judged based on their research process, supporting evidence, originality, and quality of writing. Each submission was a reminder of the importance of family history and the power of storytelling.

Grades 4-6

Winner: Student from Pennsylvania
Semifinalist: Somya Axelsen, Grade 6, Simpsonville, SC

Grades 7-8

Winner: Shijun Li, Grade 7, North Andover, MA
Semifinalist: Student from Tennessee

Grades 9-12

Winner: Student from Massachusetts
Semifinalist: Takara Welter, Grade 9, Kettle Falls, WA

Shijun Li

The Pike School, North Andover, MA

Winner, Grade 7

“Being in the lower class gave my great-grandfather a taste of the common people’s struggles. Poor families could only afford one set of clothes, so that only the person going out could be dressed and the rest had to be naked. Poverty and starvation ran rampant in the streets. People starved to death in their homes. To the regular civilians living in China, it would have seemed like the end of the world.”

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Shijun Li

Somya Axelsen

Homeschool, Simpsonville, SC

Semifinalist, Grade 6

“I would like to follow [Dr. Hannah Bradford Ripley’s] lead by using my skills to help my community thrive. Thanks to her unforgettable story, I have a drive to live up to her example and achieve the impossible whether big or small because you can’t have a healthy community without those who are willing to help it flourish.”

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Somya Axelsen

Takara Welter

Homeschool, Kettle Falls, WA

Semifinalist, Grade 9

“Nicholas’ story and the circumstances around his emigration to America emerged over the past year as a significant part of my own family heritage. At the same time we were learning about Nicholas, we followed the news of war, driving so many from their homes in Ukraine. When my family lived in Belgium, we met some of the many families who fled from conflict in Syria. Reflecting on all of the above, I feel a connection to those displaced Syrians and Ukrainians (and, sadly, so many others around the world).”

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Takara Welter

Youth Education at American Ancestors

Young Family Historians Essay Contest 2020

Read the winning essays

Congratulations to the winners of our 2020 essay competition, which commemorated the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower voyage.

Family History Curriculum

Classroom-Ready Lesson Plans for Students K-12

Developed by experts at American Ancestors/NEHGS, this free-to-access national curriculum is designed to expose students in grades 4 through 6 to the concepts, benefits, and joys of family history.

Youth Education Resources

Discover more resources and activities to engage young people with family history research.