Four Fun Activities: Sharing Family History with Living Relatives


This summer how about trying something a little different to involve more family members in knowing, appreciating and learning about their ancestors. Of course attending or sponsoring a family reunion is the best method. Bring together cousins, aunts, grandparents to share stories and especially heirlooms, artifacts and photos can spark many people’s interest, causing them to want to learn more.

Pick a time period such as the ‘Roaring Twenties’ and then a couple ancestors who were adults during that era. Locate any Hollywood movies (like the ‘Great Gatsby’) and general photos of the 1920s to show what life might have been like for those ancestors. If a relative served during the American Civil War, World I or World War II; there are many movies that can give the younger generation, especially youngsters a feel for those events. Always relate the events back to the ancestors of that era. Even if they did not serve in the military, the home front was affected, provide some ideas how. It might require some research, but the information is available.

Pull out any unusual heirlooms you might have and take a few minutes to let the youngster look at it, hold and discuss its purpose. My mother use to show us her father’s brass wire frame eyeglasses from the 1920s. Guess what, those came back in style in the 1970s.

Something wonderful to share with younger family members are certain foods or favorite dishes. Pick one or two different dishes, desserts, meals that your mother or grandmother was most famous for preparing. Even if you don’t have her exact recipe, most of the old favorites can be located online. A good example is my mother’s ‘Shoo-fly Pie’, a traditional Pennsylvania Dutch (Amish) dessert. It was fixed in our home for years and in the last few years I have shared it with younger family members who never had it before. The food experiences can include any ethnic or international dishes. My father was born in England, so Yorkshire Pudding, was a dish prepared at Christmas time that can be shared with a new generation.

During the year, have a birthday anniversary for an ancestor. At that time, the date of their birth, spend a little time sharing what you have learned about just that relative, their achievements, any funny stories or weird tales. Share photos of that person is great also.

Sharing is the key, not everything at once, a little bit at a time and the other family members will get it and appreciate their ancestor’s life story better.

Photo at top: A family heirloom, an 1880 necklace worn by four generations.

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