North Carolina Genealogy Forum  |  North Carolina Genealogy Newsletter

Getting Your Children Interested in the Family History


Sign up for our North Carolina Genealogy newsletter:

This is an idea I’ve thought about for quite some time. Our children are a bit young yet to really get interested in the family history (or any history for that matter.) But, it’s a dilemma that some people face even with older children. How can they pass along the information, or even get them interested in those that came before us? I’m reminded of the Andy Griffith episode where the kids decide they don’t need to learn history (in part because of a poorly worded comment from Andy.) He manages to rekindle their interest by teasing them with the story of the gun that fired a shot heard round the world. In essence he took history and turned into a good story. I think that idea could help anyone generate more interest in the family history as well.

Basically, I’m thinking along the lines of historical fiction. If you’ve ever read historical fiction you’ll know that it usually blurs the lines between what happened and what may have happened. Real historical events are interspersed with the writers imagination of the things that could have been. But you don’t want to fabricate your family history!

Here’s what I would suggest: take the family stories you have and write them as you have them and they have been passed down. Mark these as the “appendix” to your work. Write a short page to precede these detailing that the stories that you’ve written are based on these stories that have been handed down through the family history. If your family history is lean on passed down stories, then this appendix section can have names and dates of certain individuals and a citation of historical events that happened in their lives.

Write a prelude along the lines that the stories that follow are fabricated with a historical context. There is a nugget of truth to the stories. For those interested in weeding what is known from what is imagined or speculate or just plain old made up, see the appendix. Then start designing your narratives. Basically write interesting stories using the periods of time that your ancestors lived through as a backdrop, or the family stories that have been passed down as a launching point to embellish and expand.

Some ideas for structuring it and getting the imaginative juices flowing would be to ask yourself what happened before and after the stories that you’ve already got. Would larger historical events have played any role in the story or the lives of those involved? What other interesting aspects of this story taking place in the time it did are there that you could expand on?

You know, society and culture has changed over the years, but many things about people haven’t. Above all, use your imagination as you craft your stories. Also make sure that you give people the “original” so that they can create their own stories in time.