Every child loves a good story. At least my two little ones do. They like to imagine fairies, and princesses, happy endings, and mysteries. While we may not have fairies and princesses in our family history, we certainly have plenty of mystery, and both happy and sad endings.
My father-in-law is a big genealogy buff. He loves it and it is one of his favorite things to do in his spare time. He has tried repeatedly to get his three sons excited about family history. He talks about his ancestors like they are his next door neighbors that he has known forever, and he knows their stories. He doesn't just know when they were born, got married, and died, but he knows, sometimes lengthly stories, about their lives. When my husband was a child, they frequently visited grave sites on their family vacations. Mixed in with family photos, there is often a slide or two of a grave stone. It has kind of become a family joke, and unfortunately I think, has resulted in none of his boys catching the bug that is genealogy. Instead, when their dad starts in on a family history story, there is eye rolling, groaning, and tuning out.
So how do you get kids excited about family history? I say one of the best ways is to get them to love uncovering the mystery, and then doing something with it like scrapbooking it.
There are photos in every family that simply are a mystery. No one knows who they are, where it was taken, or if that person is indeed a relative. Giving an older child, or young adult, a photo such as this, along with the assignment to figure it out for you, might be a good place to start! They will hopefully have fun doing this, and want to do it again.
For the youngest of children, pull out the albums and tell them the history of their ancestors like you are reading from a story book. Make it exciting. Make it a folklore. Show them your excitement, and it will stick with them. My children are 2 and 4 and love looking at pictures with me as I tell them about the pictures. And, why not pull out the oldest of photos and talk about those ancestors as well?
For those children who are too old for a storybook story, yet not quite old enough to become a detective, a perfect way to get them involved is by letting them do the actual craft of putting together an album with you. While it will take some supervision on your part, you can talk to them about their ancestors as you work together. For children who can write, you can have them do the journaling which will help them learn the stories. Don't fuss too much over having a perfect album. Instead focus on teaching your children the history of their ancestors. They will most likely learn to love their family history. And, hopefully, take over for you one day.
Don't force children to love what you love. Let them explore it on their own, and observe what makes them excited. Then focus on that to help them grow their love of family history!