3 Reasons Why Using a Family Tree Can Help Children in School

We have undertaken various school projects, to see how we can make family history more interesting for younger generations. Our projects have been embraced by children, who have enjoyed learning about the characters behind the names on their family tree.

Suzie Colver of obituarieshelp.org, is a keen advocate on encouraging children to learn about their family heritage and how it can benefit them, even if they aren’t interested in family history yet.

According to Suzie, aligning family history research with a child’s studies can benefit them in three different ways:

1. It Makes History Come to Life

If  your children are learning about World War I or the Vietnam War in school, it will be much easier to learn the facts if they can associate it with a real person. A great-grandparent or uncle may have served in one of those wars, which will make the information they are learning in school a lot more real.

Find out what era they are studying, and make an effort to find out how your family is connected. The further back you have to go, the more difficult, but it is possible to find family members from a century ago. Even if all you have is vague information such as your family originated in Ireland, it will make that country more memorable in world history.

2. It Teaches Children How to Research

Research is one task your kids will have throughout their school years. Many times, it will be on subjects they consider boring and irrelevant. Make research more interesting by having them help you find out about your ancestors. Teach them how to use the internet and other resources such as the microfiche film at the public library. Show them how to find information from the country records.

As they use these unique resources, it will make research more interesting. Instead of being a required project, it will be more like solving a mystery. As you add names to your family tree, they will feel a sense of pride in accomplishing a complicated task.

3. It Teaches Children How to Organise Information

It can be overwhelming to do a research project and then try to put it all together in a way that makes sense. It may be even more challenging if your child is a visual learner. A family tree is a great way to teach a child how to organise information in a way that makes sense and allows the facts to be relevant.

As your child fills in names and other information on the various people in your ancestry, they will learn how to develop associations. They will also understand how to format information so that it makes sense. Since there are so many different kinds of family trees, they can put as much or as little information as they want. With some, it may simply be a name on a tree. For others, they may include birth and death dates, marriage dates and a lot more.

A family tree project can provide an exciting way to help your child learn in school. It teaches them skills they will use throughout their lives, and it does it in a fun way.

Suzie Kolber created obituarieshelp.org to be the complete online resource for Suzie_Kolber_Obit“do it yourself” genealogy projects. The site offers the largest offering of family tree templates online. A not for profit website, it is dedicated to offering free resources for those that are trying to trace their family history.

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Taking Family History back to school

‘Name That Baby’ competition to teach children about family history

“Name That Baby” competition to teach children about family history

Here’s an update on the project we’re running at a local school, to help introduce children to their family history.

In this week’s lesson we held a ‘name that baby’ competition. The children brought in old photos of themselves as babies so their classmates could guess who was who.

Children playing name that babyParticular focus was given to their nose, eyes and ears as they made their decisions and they were reminded that personal facial features are often similar to parents and grandparents – I asked them all to think about who they looked like most in their family and some interesting discussions began.

I had set homework in the previous lesson for the children to write a story about a family member. As our discussions moved on, they added this information to the Twile timeline – again, they all had wonderful stories to tell.  One story in particular was very moving so we asked the child to tell the rest of the class what she had learnt:

‘My 2 x great grandparents from Belfast, Ireland met during the sectarian troubles. My 2 x great grandad was Protestant and my grandma was Catholic. They were in love but were unable to be together because it wasn’t allowed and they would have been in a lot of trouble if they were found out. During the civil conflict they decided to move away to England where they could be married. They did get married and raised their children in England, which is why I live here today.’

The time flies by when I am in the school and it is so great to see how much fun the children are having. Over the next few weeks I am looking forward to discovering more family stories and some of the children are even making videos.

Introducing children to Family History at Riverside School

As part of our ongoing mission to make family history more engaging for the younger generations, we’re working with another Yorkshire school to introduce family history into the curriculum.

Last year I was delighted to go into a local school and speak to the children about family history. We had such a lot of fun and it was great to see the children so enthusiastic, enjoying conversations with their family about their ancestors and starting to record their own lives on Twile.

I recently accepted an invitation to go in to another school, working with the history teacher at Riverside School in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, UK. A group of excited 9 and 10 year old students greeted me and I have the pleasure of going along each week for six weeks .

In the first week, in order to introduce the children to family history, their teacher Mrs Patrick and I had a discussion with the class to get their thoughts on ‘What is family’, ‘Why is it important’, ‘What is an ancestor’.  She then asked the children to recall happy family stories relating to the Christmas holidays, where they were likely to have family gatherings.  Many mentioned seeing grandparents, aunts and uncles and discussed who was related to who and on which side of the family (maternal/paternal).

We then introduced the concept of the family tree, showing them the Twile version and asked the children to think about how their family was connected and draw their own trees.

As the children began this work, questions began to be asked such as ‘I don’t know my grandparents real names – they are just granny and grandpa’, ‘I don’t know if my uncle is my mum or dad’s brother’, ‘I don’t know my mum’s date of birth’ – We asked the children to write these questions down and take them home to find out more from their parents.

In the second week, the children came along to the class with more information about their family, ready to put it into Twile.

After showing the children how to log in, they set to work adding their family tree findings online.  The children got to work enthusiastically and found Twile easy to use.  By the end of the first part of the session the children had added their immediate family members and began adding aunts/uncles and their cousins.

The children took photos of themselves using the iPads and imported their photos onto the ‘profile’ on their trees.

We watched two videos: the first to illustrate how the family tree is pieced together. The second was the first part of Who Do You Think You Are – JK Rowling:

At the end of the 15 minutes, the children were asking to watch more – they were completely enthralled in the journey that JK Rowling was being taken on. They couldn’t believe it when she learnt that the grandfather she thought she knew about was the wrong person!

We had a class discussion following the videos – the children were keen to tell me their own stories learnt from the last session about their history – stories were told about soldiers in the war and an ancestor that had sailed on the ‘Mayflower’ from the UK to America in the 1600s!! I was quite taken by the enthusiasm the children displayed and clearly the parents’ involvement in helping the children learn – children had also found out the names of their grandparents and now knew the dates of birth of their parents. One child in particular discovered they had a well-known ancestor – Edward Jenner – who discovered the vaccine for small pox!

After the second session, the children were asked to choose a family member and write a story about them – find out their name, date of birth, what relation they are, what their occupation is/was and something interesting about them. They will bring a photo if possible, ready to ‘create a story’ about that person in next week’s lesson.

Their excitement was contagious and I can’t wait to go back next week!

Now everyone can view Twile timelines of World History

To help in our mission of engaging the wider family in family history, we’ve just opened up our streams of world events to everyone, whether they use Twile or not.  This means that anyone can view a Twile timeline of World War 1 or a timeline of big inventions, for example, even if they don’t yet use Twile to record their family story.

There’s a quote attributed to author James Patterson that will explain how we think these public streams can help:

“There’s no such thing as a kid who hates reading. There are kids who love reading, and kids who are reading the wrong books.”

Family historians often struggle to engage their family members in their research.  Are they really not interested in where they came from and how their ancestors lived their lives?  Or are they simply reading the wrong book?

We hope that by encouraging people to explore world history events on a timeline we’ll be able to help them take the next step and start recording their own lives and those of their parents, grandparents and children.  Every memory and photo they add to their family timeline will be something preserved that could otherwise be lost forever.

Right now we have the following streams that you can explore:

And we are working on many, many more.

Can you help?
We’re looking for people who can help us put together streams on specific topics that would make good timelines.  Are you an expert on the American War of Independence or the history of London or the life of Ghandi?  Please get in touch by sending us an email to help@twile.com – you could have your own stream on a Twile timeline!

We’re also looking for suggestions on what streams we should add next – please let us have your ideas.

Add streams to your family timeline
If you already have a Twile timeline, you can add any of our streams of world history to help give context to your family story:

  1. Log into Twile: www.twile.com/timeline
  2. Click the ‘In View’ button at the top of the timeline
  3. Move the sliders on the right hand side of the page to activate any of our streams
  4. Click ‘Done’
  5. You should now see your chosen content on the same timeline as your family history

Privacy

By the way – although we’re opening up access to our streams of world history, everything you add to your own Twile timeline is still totally private and secure – nothing you share on Twile will ever be made available to anyone outside of your family.  If you’d like to know more about our approach to privacy at Twile, I’d suggest this article we wrote a while back: Twile Privacy

Family history at Old Town School

With our collaboration with Old Town School in full swing, I wanted to share the experience so far with you – the response from the children has been brilliant. Their enthusiasm and interest is amazing and I’m grateful to Old Town School for the experiment. As half term approaches, we have discussed emotions and asked the children to ‘call out’ happy and sad emotions.

Each of the children was asked to think about a happy occasion and tell the class about it. Without fail, every child mentioned their ‘family’ in the happy occasion which lead to a discussion around the importance of family and an understanding that both happy and sad times could be shared with family. The children were then asked to create a comic strip and draw out their happy memory.

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The children have also learned about two important subjects.

Death: When shown various items such as: leaves, flowers and fruit which were dead and alive, they had to describe the differences in colour and texture. They were asked to ‘call out’ alternative meanings of the word ‘died’ to help them understand why we use different words to sympathise and empathise with one another in the event of someone dying that you know.   The children watched a short movie about a badger that had ‘passed away’ to affirm their understanding.

cropped-school-image-2Family tree: We discussed how families were connected and I drew an example family tree up on the board. The children were asked to have a go at drawing their family tree and indicate how far back could they go. They were told that their family tree should include all living and dead family members and as homework, they were encouraged to ask  their parents to help add more family members to the drawing and collect dates of birth where possible.

Our first introduction of Twile to the class was in week three where, having brought in their updated family trees, we were amazed to see that one child had a tree that dated back to the 1300’s! They clearly have a genealogist in the family who will be delighted that their younger generation is taking an early interest!

After a short demonstration of how to build a tree in Twile, the students got to work. With one computer between three, they watched one another take turns to grow their trees. They were so excited to see the branches connect in Twile and enthusiastically continued to add further relatives until their time was up! The children found the technology easy and fun to use and couldn’t wait to get home and do more with their parents. I received a wonderful note from one of the students!

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So far, this project is going brilliantly and I really am having so much fun with the children. I’ll keep you posted on how we progress. If the response so far is anything to go by, we have generated family discussions and made family history a bit more interesting. Young genealogists in training!

Kelly