by Delia

We as family historians really, really want to have children who will follow in our footsteps and take up the quest to discover more about our ancestors. We want to instill in them our own keen interest. Unfortunately, this doesn't happen all that often. As our children become teens and grow into adults, they think that dad/grandma/Uncle Ed (whoever it is in the family) has "already done all that," and there's no need to bother. Or maybe they are just too busy with sports or music or gaming to spend the time and effort to become skilled in the search.

Now, as an avid genealogist and staff member of The Genealogy Center, I might say "No, we must force them into continuing the search because genealogy is vital to the understanding and knowledge of our place in history." But, of course, as a parent I know that I would never have forced an interest onto my daughter, even if she had let me. A love of family history and the quest to continue provide the motivation for a genealogist. I was satisfied that she would listen to, and remember, select tales and facts. Eventually, she may take up the task, or her children might. 

It's important, however, that we don't bombard our children and other relatives with facts and long, involved stories. I had an aunt that did that, and it interested me not at all. According to her, our relatives were very important in their communities, and we were descended from well-known people of the same surname. I'm not sure why I doubted her as a child. Maybe it was the fact that her stories changed every time she told them. I do know that as I began to do genealogical research, disproving her tales was one of my greatest pleasures.

I dropped mentions of our ancestors into conversations with my daughter, letting her express an interest before I continued. And I never made our ancestors seem to be more than they were: teachers, farmers, and saddle and harness makers. I wish I had had a few more rogues though. There's nothing better for catching the interest of a child than scandal, gruesome death and murder -- several generations removed.

So next time you're getting together with your children, grandchildren or other family members, think of a simple tale to share. Let your living relatives know your dead ones as people, not as facts and dates. Eventually, your listeners may ask for more, or join you in the search.