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The 2024 American Ancestors Young Family Historians Essay Contest is open for students enrolled in grades 4–12 in public, private, parochial, and home schools across the nation and US territories. This year's contest invites students to share a story from their personal family history and to explain how lessons from that story can apply to their life today.

We encourage teachers to use this essay contest as a class project. Our Family History Curriculum has everything you need to help students explore their roots, including inquiry-based lessons, teaching strategies, and editable student worksheets.

Submission Deadline Has Passed.

Contest Rules

Essay Question

Share a story from your personal family history. What lessons have you learned from that story, and how can you apply those lessons to your life today?


All entries must be submitted through the online portal by April 1, 2024. Winners will be announced in May 2024.

Eligible Participants: All public, private, parochial, and home school students enrolled in grades 4-12 in any U.S. state or territory.

Only one entry per student is allowed.

All entries must be the original work of an individual student. Entries must not have been published or submitted for publication elsewhere. Artificial intelligence tools cannot be used.

Entries which were written as an assigned school project are eligible for submission, but must fulfill all contest requirements.



Grades 4-6

Winner: $500
Semifinalist: $250

Grades 7-8

Winner: $500
Semifinalist: $250

Grades 9-12

Winner: $500
Semifinalist: $250

Each winner and semifinalist will also receive a one-year student membership to American Ancestors.

Submission Guidelines

Word Count (approximate)

Grades 4-6: 500 words

Grades 7-8: 750 words

Grades 9-12: 1,000 words



Number all pages


12 pt Times New Roman

1-inch margins left and right, top and bottom

Submission file must be a PDF

Criteria for Judging

Students will not be judged on the specific details of their family history. Essays will be judged based on the following criteria.


Essay Content (60%)

Research Process

Describe your research process, including who you spoke to, where you searched, what sources you used, and what you discovered.

Supporting Evidence

Use evidence from your research to support your claims and conclusions.


Write an original and unique essay with your own ideas and interpretations.

Personal Impact

Make meaningful connections between the past and your own life. Share what you have learned and how it has impacted you.


Quality of Writing (40%)


Write a clear and concise essay with an introduction, body, and conclusion.


Proofread your essay to catch any errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation.


Meet all formatting requirements.


  Please share this contest with your students, or any young family historians in your life!

Young Family Historians Essay Contests