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Ways to Inspire Others to Learn their Family History

Sidewalk chalkPeople who are not genealogists aren’t always very interested in learning about their family history. Many see the research required as a tedious, time consuming, task. It looks a lot more like “homework” than like something that would be fun. Fortunately, there are ways to inspire people to learn their family history. The trick is to spark their imagination by presenting things in a creative, accessible, way.

In July of 2014, Mormon missionaries found a unique way to encourage people to learn their family history. They used chalk to draw a giant tree on the ground in Union Square, New York. They added the phrase “find your family” to it.

All day long, the missionaries encouraged the people who passed by to use chalk and add to the tree. They were asked to write the name of the countries that their ancestors came from on the tree. After that, the missionaries taught the people how to learn more about their family history by using FamilySearch. As you may know, FamilySearch is a service run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It all ties together!

Family Tree Shortcuts points out that Alex Haley inspired a lot of people to start exploring their own family history. He is the author of the popular book Roots: The Saga of an American Family.

In the book, he traces his own roots from Africa to America, and shares many things about the lives of his ancestors. His book, and the movie that was made from it, make family history accessible and interesting! Many people, who were not thinking about getting started in genealogy, decided to give it a try after reading (or watching) Roots.

Another good way to make family history seem fun is to use technology. Suggest that the musicians in your family create a song based on the life of an ancestor. Assign a techno-savvy relative to create a photo album of old family photos – and print them out for a family reunion. You can teach a ten year old how to use a wand scanner to make digital copies of photos.

In short, the way to get people “hooked” on learning about their family history is to make it fun and relatable. Teach those who are interested in technology how to use it to further their knowledge of their ancestors. Help them to connect with family history via books or movies that explore the topic in an interesting way. If all else fails, get some chalk and draw a giant tree on the ground!

Image by John Morgan on Flickr.

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