A little last minute, but I've created a little interview sheet for kids take with them tomorrow for family Easter festivities. There are a few simple questions, along with spaces to record the names of the person being interviewed and the interviewer. The questions are about favorite Easter family traditions, food, and childhood memories. Click on the image below for a PDF to download.
Family holidays and gatherings are great times to share of family traditions and memories, and kids can get the conversations going! Encourage your children and grandchildren to keep asking questions about your family's past, and get them in the habit of recording those memories!
©2017 Emily Kowalski Schroeder
Family gatherings make the holiday season a great time to talk with elder family members about family heritage and history. We've all seen the lists of recommended questions about birth, deaths, people and places that we should ask our family members before it's too late. But there is so much MORE to family history than just names, dates, and places. What about our memories of people, places, and traditions of the past? They are just as, if not more, important to our families' histories as the stuff we add to a pedigree chart.
I recommend getting the younger family members involved in talking with older family members about their childhood Christmas memories. Below is a list of Christmas-related questions that kids can ask other family members. Not only that, but I recommend that the kids themselves record their answers to these questions, letting their memories also become meaningful records in our family history files.
Childhood Christmas Questions
How did your family decorate their house for Christmas? What did your Christmas tree look like and what did you decorate it with?
At whose house did you celebrate Christmas with your extended family? Who was there? Describe what the house looked like.
Did you attend church with your family on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day? If so, which church did you attend? Describe what the service was like.
What games did your family like to play together at Christmas gatherings?
What was your favorite Christmas gift you received as a child?
What gifts did you NOT like getting for Christmas?
Was there a gift you really, really wanted but did not get? If so, what was it?
What was your favorite holiday food served by your family? What was your least favorite holiday food?
Do you remember Christmas shopping with your family? Which stores did you go to? Describe the store decorations, if you remember them.
What kinds of Christmas presents do you remember giving to your parents and/or siblings?
What kinds of smells do you remember from Christmastime experiences?
What other special holiday traditions do you remember from your childhood? Baking days? Crafts? Special songs or prayers? Watching holiday movies or plays or reading holiday stories?
I'm sure there are more holiday-related questions you can think of that may be more specific to your family, but this list is a good start to get people thinking and talking about childhood Christmases of the past. When children hear their elders talk about their own childhoods, a special connection between the generations is formed, because the kids then realize that these grown-ups were once kids who had a lot of the same experiences that they are having.
©2016 Emily Kowalski Schroeder
Some of the most important and powerful tools genealogists use to learn about our family histories are census records. But have you ever tried showing a 100-year old census form to a child? Take my word for it, it doesn't go well, and their eyes glaze over quicker than you can explain what a census is.
So, I was on a mission to find a simplified, interactive way to introduce my kids to censuses, which includes teaching them WHAT a census is and WHY we have them. Fortunately, there is a great children's book that helped me to do so. It's called Tricking the Tallyman by Jacqueline Davies and illustrated by S. D. Schindler. The story takes takes places in Vermont in 1790, during the nation's very first census. The story follows the experiences of Phineas Bump, the census-taker, as he attempts to collect an accurate tally of the town of Tunbridge. First, the villagers hide people because they think it will mean more taxes and conscription. Then, on his second try, they inflate numbers because they hear it will be more government representation. When the villagers realize it will bring both more taxes and representation, they cooperate with Phineas and he does get an accurate count in the end. There is a lot of mischief going on in this book, which makes it fun for kids, plus the illustrations are very educational in teaching kids about what people wore and about the types of homes in which they lived back then.
I made two worksheets for kids who want to 'play census.' One is geared towards older children who can read and write independently, but it is still a simplified version of a census form. The other form is much simpler still, and is meant to be used by kids who are not yet reading independently. An adult or older sibling will still have to help a young child out, but the pictures above the columns (for house number, adult men, adult women, boy children, and girl children) will help the child better visualize what he/she is counting. There is even a place for them to do some simple adding of their tally marks. (Click on each image to open the PDFs.)
I played census with my 5yo daughter on our front porch. She was the census-taker. We dressed her up in old-time 'fancy' clothes and I gave her a clipboard and a pencil. She took her job very seriously.
If you are friends with your neighbors, ask if your child can come to their door as well to record their family. Or, set up little 'households' with dolls or stuffed animals, so your child will have more 'families' to record.
Once they understand what a census is and how it was accomplished, THEN you can start showing kids actual census schedules on which their ancestors are recorded and talking with them about all the helpful information that we can learn from those records.
©2016 Emily Kowalski Schroeder
One of the major components of documenting family history is interviewing family elders. There are many websites out there that offer lists of questions to ask older family members during an interview. I wanted to create something that makes the process of interviewing FUN for young children AND encourages a more natural, conversational way of getting to know a family member, instead of just reading question after question off a list.
This is the Roll A Memory game. It's a simple paper cube with various questions about childhood likes, dislikes, homes, school, vacations, etc. Players take turns rolling and then every player must answer the question. After everyone answers, they get some sort of candy or goodie, which is a good incentive for kids or adults who are reluctant to play at first. Anyone, from preschoolers to senior citizens and everyone in between, can play this game! It would be fun to do at larger family gatherings - to really get people talking about their memories of people and places of the past.
I have created three sample cubes for you to download and use with your family. (Simply cut out along the perimeter of the cross shape, fold along the black lines, and tape the tabs on the inside of the cube to hold it together.) You may also download a blank cube template on which to write your own questions that are perhaps more specific to your family members and your family traditions. (Click on each image to be directed to a downloadable PDF.)
©2015, Emily Kowalski Schroeder. For personal use only. Printables may not be reproduced or redistributed without written consent of owner.
Friday, April 10, is National Siblings Day, a day on which to recognize our relationships with our siblings. Most kids interact with their siblings every day, but it's usually in the form of play or conflict. Since interviewing family members is such a big part of learning about family and family history, I've created an interview printable with several simple questions that children can ask their siblings. (Click on the image below to download a copy of the interview as a PDF.)
If you child cannot yet read or write, they can still conduct the interview with your help. Read the interviewer the questions and then let him or her address those questions to their sibling(s). Then, help the child record their answers (or the sibling can him him/her record the answers). You can make this a fun activity: Have the child pretend that he/she is a journalist or author writing a great history of the family. You may even find that the child wants to interview more family members!
©2015, Emily Kowalski Schroeder. For personal use only. May not be reproduced or redistributed without written consent of owner.
Emily Kowalski Schroeder
Founder and Author of Growing Little Leaves
Partnering with the Indiana Historical Society to create educational programming for children and their caretakers.