It used to be that family history was kept alive through storytelling. Like a game of telephone, details were easily lost or incorrectly translated. With modern science and the rapid growth of technology many of us have come to find we don’t know nearly as much as we thought we did. This is an opportunity to unravel those family mysteries by traveling through time with our kids.
Finding My Roots
I started my own personal journey many decades ago. I knew my family hailed from Eastern Europe, but that was it. More recently, with the introduction of DNA testing, I uncovered new information taking me all the way back to my great, great grandparents in Hungary, Poland, and Austria. Having lived in Eastern Europe, in that very same place where my great, great grandparents were born and raised, where they fell in love and had children, was a powerful experience for me. I felt more deeply connected to my heritage and to the people living there today.
If you have never dabbled in genealogy before, you can get started with free resources like FamilySearch, my personal favorite. Create an account and you’ll be able to save your searches, link family members, and share your discoveries. When you hit a dead end, visit your local library and see if they offer free access to Ancestry’s international database. You’ll be surprised at how much information is readily available.
Genealogy is not for the faint of heart but if you like a good puzzle, there’s nothing more challenging than researching your roots. It requires significant time and patience that children, especially littles, may not have, but the knowledge gained can be shared through cultural traditions, language, and travel. My own kids are curious about the world and teaching them about our own family tree has only spurred an even greater curiosity.
Try some hands-on activities to get your kids more involved. Create a family tree together, then have them choose one person from the tree to explore in greater depth. Create a collage that represents the country where that person was born, or find a native recipe that you can cook together. When they ask questions about their heritage, seek answers together. Finding your roots is a great way to feel connected to your ancestors but, more importantly, each other.