As a new grandmother, I’ve been wondering how I could share my passion for genealogy with my grandson. The task is especially challenging since he lives 1,800 miles away and he’s only 6 months old!
I subscribe to a weekly email blast called ‘Zap the Grandma Gap’ by Janet Hovorka that discusses how to get our grandchildren excited about genealogy and the benefits they derive from knowing their place in the world. One of last month’s topic was titled ‘Start With the Child’ where she encouraged me to think about family history from my grandson’s point of view.
I remember being little and struggling with family relationships. I had two grandmothers that I often mixed up until I remembered that one had a tantalizing cuckoo clock. So she was delighted when I told her she was my Cuckoo Gramma and loved to repeat the story again and again. As a child, I loved to hear it again and again.
My Dad had one sister and we visited with her family almost every year when I was growing up. As a child, the repetition, familiarity and size of the task made it was easy for me to learn those family relationships: aunt, uncle and cousins. But my mom came from a large family that was strewn across the country making family visits difficult. I was a teenage before I was able to work through her seven siblings and which of my dozens of cousins belonged to which aunts and uncles.
Children hear snatches of conversations with names that don’t always have faces attached. Family stories become even more confusing because the character names change depending on who is telling the story – tricky business. My Uncle Bob mysteriously morphs into Brother Bob when my mom is talking about him.
Then relationships change again as family members marry, divorce or time passes. Just for fun, I love to tell three-year-olds that their parents used to be toddlers just like them. They usually don’t believe me. But I can see the wheels turning as they try to grasp tricky genealogical concept.
So back to my grandson, Cooper, his first genealogical lesson had to be basic, repetitive, focused on him and couldn’t include words. And the theme needed to be ‘Your family loves you even though we aren’t with you.’ Perhaps a little book that he could maul and study would fit the bill. I found some instructions on Pinterest and created a cloth book with photographs of his mom, dad, grandparents, aunt and dogs. He’s in most of the pictures too because every child loves to see pictures and hear stories that revolve around them.
In my favorite photo, I see a budding genealogist…..