Enjoy an inexpensive educational experience for children and adults alike

Frugal Family Journeys into Genealogy

by Christine Stephens

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Want an inexpensive educational experience for your children or grandchildren that will entertain the adults as well? Consider genealogy. Studying genealogy is an enriching experience filled with new people, places, and new ways to explore these in the digital age. One can inexpensively instill a love of learning through genealogical research.

Children are always excited by an art project. A quick search of the Internet will uncover a wide selection of free family tree forms that the family can fill in together. Putting the family tree into a little binder will provide room for the children to store copies of their family stories, family photos, and journals about their summer spent exploring genealogy.

The next trip to the grandparent's home can be a fact gathering research mission. Feel free to use recording equipment or a camcorder to capture the family stories. Ask to borrow family photos to scan into the computer for preservation. Don't forget to ask to look through the old family Bibles for dates and names of older family members.

Become familiar with the genealogical societies and libraries nearby. One can instill a love of research in children by showing them the collections of information and helping them search through the old books, microfilm, telephone directories, and collections of newspaper clippings.

Take the search online with a free trial membership to Ancestry.com or Genealogy.com to amass even more information that is not available through the local libraries and societies. And be sure to update the family trees as new information is found.

As a treat, plan a trip to talk to newly found family members or the family historian. Visit nearby towns from which the ancestors hailed and even try to photograph their old homes and search the cemetery.

Visit landmarks in nearby towns. Research the town history. This would be an excellent time to research how people of the ancestors' time period lived. Rendezvous, war reenactments, living history museums, and historical districts/landmarks can provide information on how the ancestors lived and ate, what they wore, and how they entertained their families. Tour old homes, factories, and attractions nearby. If visits are not possible, so many state historical societies have a rich web presence full of photos and information as do many libraries.

Encourage older children to journal their thoughts as the summer and investigation go along. Take this material and put together a family history. Plan to work together if children are young or edit the work of older children. Place the family tree, photographs of family members and places, DVDs of family interviews, and the family story in their genealogy book to be kept for future generations. This project would be really exciting if it could be paired with an Old Settlers' Day Festival or family reunion.

Genealogy can help inexpensively entertain children and allow time for a parent to work on a forgotten genealogy project for an enriching, yet educational family experience.

Reviewed July 2017

Christine Stephens is a single, frugal woman living in the Midwest. She graduated from the Elliott School of Communication with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Print Journalism. She has been a devoted Dollar Stretcher reader for eight years. One of her hobbies includes genealogy research, which she has practiced for 15 years.

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