Showing posts with label Genealogy for Children. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Genealogy for Children. Show all posts

August 18, 2013

Much to My Surprise...

Much to My Surprise...
My Beta Genealogy Board Game
My two oldest grandchildren spend a few days every summer with us on the farm. They've been doing this since the oldest was 7 years old, so that makes 8 years. Every year I create genealogy activities for them, ranging from a Genealogy board game I created to ancestor stepping stones to Cemetery Hunts. Every year it is something different, but always with a genealogy theme.

They have listened to my genealogy stories on every car trip from their home to ours and back. Usually it's the same stories and they used to request specific stories each year... "Gramma tell us about our ancestor who walked Niagara Falls on a tightrope"

So I've been feeling pretty proud of my brainwashing. I figured my grandson would be the next generation genealogist as he was the most interested and the most fascinated by the stories.

My Ancestor Wall
What a shock yesterday to find out I've been deluding myself! We were sitting and having lunch and I casually asked "Can you show me one of your great great grandmothers on the wall" As a preface I should explain that we have dozens of ancestor photos in antique frames hanging on our walls and I've used those to play my own Genealogy version of I Spy called I Spy With My Genealogy Eye with my grandchildren for years. So yes I figured they would remember who was who.

Wrong. They could not name or even point to one of the three photos of their 2nd great grandmothers. They seemed puzzled when I pointed them out and provided the names plus the relationship such as "This ancestor is my dad's grandmother". Ali, my grandson, did say at one point, "Oh yeah I kind of remember that name."

What a shock! My constant and repeated brainwashing has not born fruit! I'm still hoping that at some point in the future there will be a glimmer of "Hmmm I think I  remember my Gramma telling me blah blah blah" But I don't want to risk losing my candidate for the next in line to take up the Genealogy torch. I do have a backup candidate in a younger grandson so all is not lost. But I'm  revising my strategies and coming up with a new plan. I haven't gone one yet but when I figure one out I'll share it with you.

Ideas and suggestions are very welcome!

July 13, 2012

When Grandkids Start Asking About Great-Grandfathers - Yay!

The Ancestor Wall in Living Room
Yes brainwashing telling grandkids about ancestors does pay off! As many of my readers know, I brainwash tell genealogy stories to my grandkids every time I see them. We play genealogy games. We go on cemetery hunts. We play the Genealogy Board Game I created.

Yesterday it all paid off. My 7 year old grandson was sitting on the couch with me and he looked up at our walls of ancestor photos, then asked, "Grandma, do I have any great-grandpas up there?"

I showed him the photo of my dad in his army uniform, and explained that was his great-grandpa McGinnis. Then he asked who all the people were in the rest of the pictures. So we went through them one by one. "This is my great grandmother, so she is your great-great-great grandma!" He was fascinated and asked questions such as "What is she to my Daddy?" and "How do you get to be a great-great-great grandpa?" and "How old do you have to be to be a grandpa?"

These questions allowed for an explanation of different generations, which he seemed to understand.  I can't wait for the next round of questions!

April 20, 2012

Youth Program at NGS 2012 Family History Conference

The Ohio River: Gateway to the Western Frontier

(Arlington, VA)–The National Genealogical Society's thirty-fourth annual Family History Conference, The Ohio River: Gateway to the Western Frontier, will be held 9–12 May 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio. 
A highlight of the NGS 2012 Family History Conference will be the Genealogy Youth Kamp on Saturday, 12 May 2012, at the Duke Energy Convention Center from 8:30 a.m. until 12:00 p.m.  The Kamp, designed to develop an understanding of family history, is intended for youth 8 to 16 years old.  Scouts and 4-H groups are encouraged to participate in the event with their leaders.  The morning will be composed of a variety of hands-on activities including a workshop focusing on genealogical merit badges.  A special program is planned for interested parents, grandparents, and adults who are welcome to attend. 

The Genealogy Youth Kamp is free, but registration is required.  Space is limited.  Go to to register.  After registering, please prepare for the Kamp by following the directions on the NGS Genealogy Youth Kamp web page 

July 28, 2011

Ancestor Stepping Stones: More Genealogy Fun With Children

My two oldest grandchildren are coming in August for their annual week-long stay with us. As many of my readers know, we always create a genealogy activity to do while they are here.

Lorine's Stepping Stone
for Grandma
This year we've decided to create Ancestor Stepping Stones. These will be stones that make a pathway leading from Point A to Point B.

We live on a 100 acre hobby farm and have lots of room to make pathways - in the vegetable gardens, in the gravel garden, from the back deck to the animal fields, from the house to the forest..... we can create dozens of paths if we want to.

Our idea is that each Stepping Stone will have an ancestor's name as well as years of birth and death. Each child creates a stone for themself, then decides which parent they want to add. Because these are Ancestor stepping stones, the grandparent chosen by the child needs to be either the father or mother of the parent they chose.

We'll discuss the different ways they could tackle this  - do they want to follow the male line? The female? A mix of both? Maybe they want to put two names on one stone, for example they might want to make a stone that reads "My grandparents Joseph & Ellen Smith" or "My grandparents Joseph Smith & Ellen Jones" or just "Joseph Smith 1898-1957" (These are invented names by the way)

Working on Grandma's Stone
Their own stone should have their name and date of birth or age, plus the date they created the stone. They could add many different items - hand prints or perhaps a few words that best sums up their likes or explains who they are. For example one might put "Sally Smith, age 10.  Bieber Fever!" Or little Sally might put "Sally Smith age 10. Love fashion & my iPod" It's their choice.

Of course we'll talk about the ancestors for whom the children are going to create stones. We'll also talk about how they are leaving their mark and a bit of history for future generations by creating these stones.

 Colour Added to Hub's Stone
The first step is to buy clear plastic holders for plants. These will be our molds.

Next my husband will mix the cement and pour it into the molds. We have powdered colours that can be added to the cement, so the grandchildren can also choose what colour they want each stone to be. It's going to be tricky to work on more than one mold at a time so I think we will likely create one each day they are here.

After waiting about an hour for the cement to partially set, the children will be able to write or print the name of the ancestor on their mold. Then they can add decorations such as coloured marbles or coloured glass, beads, etc. They can also use items to stamp designs into the mold or create them freehand.

Hubs working on his stone
After the decorating is done, we'll let the cement set and then ease it out of it's clear plastic mold. By the time their visit is over they should have at least 5 ancestor stepping stones done and ready to be laid in the garden.

We have completed a prototype ahead of time so that we know what we're doing when the kids are here! I think it's going to be a lot of fun, and I can also have my other 7 grandchildren create their paths when they come for a visit.

July 12, 2011

Genealogy Games for a Family Reunion: Ancestor Match (Part 4)

The family members and friends coming to our Family Fun Day this Saturday range in age from 3 years old to 87 years old. That was one of the things I had to take into account when setting up games and events. It's always an option to sit out but I wanted to have a few activities that might suit either end of the ages.

One activity I've organized as part of the Amazing Ancestor Race is a puzzle I call Ancestor Match. It should allow the older participants to catch up to the younger ones who will almost certainly get through the first few events quickly.

Ancestor Match

Ancestor Match
First I printed photos of ancestors as well as photos of those attending the Family Fun Day. The photos of those attending are when they were children.  I have 24 photos.

Then on another piece of paper I listed all the names of those in the photos and threw in two extra, so there are 26 names. It's an easy game - participants are asked to match names to photos.

To make it a bit easier I assigned numbers to each name so those playing only have to write a number under the correct photo.

Because not everyone will know who the ancestors are, I also created pedigree charts with photos and those will be on the wall. The observant family members and friends who spot the charts should realize that there are clues there.
See  Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3 of this series of Genealogy Games for a family reunion.

June 9, 2011

Making a Genealogy Video With Children

It will soon be that time of year again - when my two eldest grandchildren come to stay for their annual week-long genealogy visit. I call it a genealogy visit because every year I devise  a genealogy activity as part of their time with us.

Over the past 7 years I've managed to dream up various activities for them. We've done a Genealogy Cemetery Hunt) (looking for a specific ancestor's tombstone that I know is in the Cemetery).

We've done Ancestor Cards for Children. In this one I created a deck of playing cards with ancestor's photos and brief biography on each one.

We've done lots of other genealogy activities such as Making a Genealogy Time Capsule and creating a Genealogy Remembrance Garden, and a Genealogy Board Game.

This is the first year I've had a bit of a genealogist's block. I have been struggling to come up with a fun genealogy idea! My grandchildren are ages 13 and 11. The oldest is a boy and the younger a girl. I've been contemplating creating a genealogy video with them.

My grandson is in a theatre group and every year since he was 5, my husband has made fun videos with them. They write an outline, figure out the scenes and come up with costume ideas, then my husband films it and edits the movie to burn on to a CD ROM for them. So I was thinking that perhaps I could extend that to encompass a genealogy video this year.

My idea (it's only in its infancy stages so isn't very detailed yet) is that they can choose any ancestor they want and use an actual experience or time period from that ancestor's life to create a 10 or 15 minute video. They know the ancestor stories because they've heard them over and over since birth!

This year's genealogical activity might go like this:

They  could choose two ancestors (parent-child, husband-wife, siblings) and create a short story from an experience that is a true story and part of an ancestor's life.  Perhaps they'd like to act out their 10th great grandparents sailing to the New World in the 1630s, or walking Niagara Falls on a tightrope, or the first female pilot in Canada, or our ancestors leaving Ireland during the Famine ... the possibilities are endless.

They could choose the story and the ancestors, then take a day to come up with the different scenes and create the costumes. Then my husband could film them. The more I think about this idea the more I like it! However when I suggested it to hubs, he wasn't sure he liked how much work it involved for him - director, cameraman, props and editing!

I'll keep you posted. We still have a month or so before my two oldest grandchildren come for their visit.

June 2, 2011

I Spy With My Genealogy Eye...

I admit it. I have been brainwashing my grandchildren since birth. I tell genealogy stories constantly. I choose  ancestors with stories that I hope will excite them or enthrall them or make them curious. I repeat the same stories as many times as my grandkids want to hear them.

It's amazing what they remember, and what they love to hear.  Every year on their annual summer visits to our farm they beg me for the same stories over and over.  

"Tell us the story again about our ancestor who walked Niagara Falls on a tightrope" 

"Gramma tell us about our ancestor who fought in the War of 1812" 

"Gramma which ancestor was it who was killed by a fish? Tell that story again!" (Doubters, this is a true story. I have a newspaper clipping of the tragic yet bizarre fish incident in which my great grandfather's cousin was killed by a sturgeon)

My living room is full of ancestor photos in antique frames (I just counted and there are 20 in our cathedral style living room. That doesn't include those on the staircase, in the loft and other rooms of the house). Every year we play "Name the Ancestor" with the grandchildren over the age of 10. This is a little game where they try to name our ancestors on the wall, including their relationship to each person.

Winner is the child who gets the most names correct and can give the correct relationship (example: That's my Great great grandma Ruth).

For those who think there shouldn't be winners versus losers, I'll let you in on a secret - children love competitions. They love to win. The grandchild who doesn't come first will almost certainly try harder next time or listen more attentively when I talk about each ancestor.

Did you notice I said we only play this as a competition with the children over age 10? Children over the age of 10 understand winning and not winning. They don't cry when they don't win. With the younger children I make it like the game "I Spy." Only my version is called "I Spy With My Genealogy Eye".  Notice that we don't spy with our "little" eye, we spy with our "genealogy" eye!

My 6 year old grandson loves this game. He  takes his turn with "I spy with my genealogy eye, an ancestor who is Gramma Ollie's Grandma" (I'm Gramma Ollie) Then the rest of us have to point to the correct person in the photos.

Even my 3 year old grandson tries to play but he doesn't quite get it yet. His version goes like this "I spying with my all-a-gee eye, something like a lady in a dress"  But that's okay because as soon as one of us in the game picks the right "lady in a dress" I make sure I name the person they chose. 

"Oh that's Grandma Ruth! Good going, you chose Grandma Ruth with your genealogy eye"

Yes it's called brainwashing. Being a parrot. Repeating what you want your grandchildren to remember. If their attention span can handle it, I add a bit along the lines of "Grandma Ruth was my grandmother. She's your great-grandmother" I've usually lost them by this time but some of it will sink in.

I also prompt them with sentences like "Okay it's your turn. Use your genealogy eye to choose an ancestor for the rest of us to guess" I know. I'm shameless when it comes to my determination to turn at least ONE of my 13 grandkids into a genealogist!

Somebody has to take my 10 filing cabinet drawers of genealogy documents and my stacks of unsorted genealogy papers at some point in time... 

And so I brainwash my grandchildren with stories and games like "I Spy With My Genealogy Eye." Fingers crossed that one will  pick up the torch and carry on.

August 24, 2010

A Genealogy Board Game for Children: Part 4 - Transportation Cards

I've been busy creating a Genealogy Board Game for my grandchldren this summer. In A Genealogy Board Game For Children Part 1 I explained how I created my Game Board with squares. Part 2 discusses the creation of the actual game board and Part 3 illustrates the UH-OH and CONGRATULATIONS cards I made.

Now to show you the Transportation Cards I created. When a player lands on a Take a Transportation Card square, they choose a card from the pile. Each Transportation Card is about a journey or trip that an ancestor made.

For example, there are cards that talk about ancestors sailing to the New World on specific ships on specific dates. Some cards focus on planned trips or trips that my ancestors made. I tried to be creative in thinking about what constituted a "trip". All the "trip" had to do was feature some type of transportation - horse, car, boat, bungie cord, raft....

Each card has a picture to represent the journey and the explanation below. Transportation cards allow the player to move ahead so many squares.

This is a Transportation Card about the voyage of my Bradt ancestor from Holland to New Netherland (New York) in 1637.
This Transportation Card is about the record setting jump from the Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge made by my great-grandfather's brother in 1867.
This card is different again, featuring the proposed trip to visit his mother in Illinois mentioned in a letter dated 1839 written by my great-grandfather Levi Peer.

After creating all the Transportation Cards (I only made 10 for now) I printed them on heavy yellow card stock. I didn't want them to be the same colour as the UH-OH and CONGRATULATIONS cards which I printed on beige card stock.

Next step is to actually play the game! It's still in prototype stage but my grandchildren are with me this week so they are going to be my focus group. We'll play the game and talk about what I can do to make it better, more fun, etc. I want their input and ideas and they've already indicated they are looking forward to playing. I fact they've asked several times since arriving Sunday night.

After we play I can tweak the game and work on the final product. More on that in my next post!

August 20, 2010

A Genealogy Board Game For Children: Part 3 The Cards

I've talked about creating a Genealogy Board Game for my grandchldren this summer. In A Genealogy Board Game For Children Part 1 I explained how I created my Game Board with squares. You can also read Part 2 which continued discussing the creation of the actual game board.

Today I want to talk about how I created cards which players draw from 2 piles on the game board. The cards are drawn when the players land on squares marked with a ? or Take a Transportation Card

The ? pile consists of laminated 3x4 1/2 inch cards. These cards are either an UH-OH card or a CONGRATULATIONS card.

Each card describes an event that actually happened to an ancestor. Example: the marriage of Alex McGinnis and Harriet King.

The ancestor's relationship to my grandchildren is noted, as in "Your 5th great grandfather...."

Each card requires the player to do something - the UH-OH cards require that a player give up money or lose a turn or both. The CONGRATULATIONS cards allow a player to receive money or move ahead a certain number of squares.

The top half of each card has a photo or drawing of the event or the ancestor. For example, the card I created about the will of Jacob Peer in 1815 has an image of the will. The card for the marriage of Alex and Harriet has the marriage certificate. The card for an event about my grandfather has his photo.

A strip of text between the top and bottom has the name of the ancestor and his/her birth and death years and locations

The bottom half has the event and the consequence. I describe what happened (the event), give the year and ancestor name, then a logical consequence.

For example a wedding could be an UH-OH Card. The player might have to pay to buy a wedding gift, or a new suit. They might have to miss a turn to attend the wedding. It could also be a CONGRATULATIONS card - perhaps the happy couple is celebrating and giving family members money!

Let me give you some examples of the cards I created:


It is circa 1912. Your great grandfather Charles Henry Fuller has just joined the Kent Buffs in England. His job is to ride his bicycle along the cliffs at the Ocean and watch for Germans. Your must miss a turn to go with him.

It's 1857. Your 4th great grandfather Joseph McGinnis is the tavern keeper of Speed The Plow near Guelph. Pay him $10.00 for a cold drink then continue on your journey

Your 11th great-grandfather Hendrick Vrooman is living in Schenectady. When the French and Indians from Canada attack the village, he and his sons are killed. Go back 5 spaces


What Fun! Great-grandma Joan is taking an ostrich ride in South Africa. She wants you to try it too. Because you stayed on the ostrich for 5 minutes you collect $50.00

It's November 3, 1849. Your great great grandpa Alex McGinnis is being baptised in Church of Our Lady in Guelph. His parents Joseph & Fanny want to give you $20.00 to celebrate the birth of their first son

Your 11th great grandfather Cornelis Van Slyke sailed from Holland to New Netherland (New York) in May 1634 on board the ship De Eendracht. Two years later he was given the job of plantation manager. He wants to share his good fortune by giving you $50.00

These are examples of the 50 ? Cards I created. They go face down on the ? square in the middle of the game board. I'll describe the Transportation Cards and how the game board has developed to final stages in my next two blog posts so be sure to check for it in the next few days.

August 11, 2010

A Genealogy Board Game For Children: Part 2

I've talked about creating a Genealogy Board Game for my grandchldren this summer. In A Genealogy Board Game For Children Part 1 I explained how I created my Game Board with squares.

The next thing I did after making my blank squares was to think about what text I would have on those squares. What would happen when a player lands on each square? Would they have to pick a card from a Reward/Punishment pile? From a Transportation Pile? Or would there be text printed right on the square with some action they had to take?

I had some ideas for the squares along the outside edges but wanted to also figure out what to do with the 4 corner squares. Would I create a type of detour, sort of like the sliders in Sorry? Or would I create physical detours, a path that diverted from the main squares and had something to do with an ancestor?

As an example, I could create a path with stickers (little footprints)  called Northern New York Forest Trail. It would be the path taken by their ancestor Mary Vollick during the American Revolution when her home in northern New York was burned by the Americans and she and her 10 small children were marched into the woods and left there to make their way to Canada or die. So a player landing there would have to detour through this path to go with Mary and her children to safety in Canada.  I played around with this for a bit but didn't create it. Instead I decided that each of the 4 corner squares would require the player (if he/she landed there) to join an ancestor in a War.

You can see the 4 War Corners here as well as the War Areas where the player sits out a few turns.

So one corner square is the American Revolution which three of their ancestors fought in on the Loyalist (British side) and one on the Patriot (American) side.  The square says

"The American Revolution has broken out. You enlisted with Isaac Vollick in Butler's Rangers. Go to their barracks to get your uniform and miss 2 turns then return to this square"  

Kitty corner in that corner is a bigger square I created with a picture of a  Loyalist and a brief title

American Revolution

Butler's Rangers Barracks

 The other 3 corner squares represent War of 1812 (another ancestor fought in that one), WW1 and WW2. All of these saw our ancestors fighting and so each square talks about something specifically related to that ancestors. The War of 1812 square allows the player to make a choice - either miss 2 turns to join Stephen Peer at the Battle of Chippewa in 1814 or pay another player to take their place.

I thought this would add an interesting twist to the game. Here the player who landed on the square can negotiate with other players. They will want to offer money to get another player to sit out 2 turns in the War of 1812 square. It should be interesting to see the bartering that takes place!

WW1 states "It's August 1918. WW1 is raging. Edgar Peer is off to France. Join him at the Battle of Amiens. Miss 2 turns"

WW2 is about my father who was a Lieutenant in that War. Again, the player who lands there has to miss 2 turns.

Each corner square has a respective larger square turned kitty corner to the War Square. It contains a photo of the soldier in that specific war or representing that soldier, as well as a brief descriptive title. That is where the player sits out their turns while waiting to rejoin the game.

There's still much more to do on my Genealogy Board Game so please keep watching here for the next blog post. Meantime if you missed it, you can have a look at A Genealogy Board Game For Children Part 1

August 6, 2010

A Genealogy Board Game for Children - Part 1

Well it's that time of year again. Every summer my two oldest grandchildren (ages 10 and 12 this year) come for a week's visit. And every summer for the past 5 years I have come up with a new Genealogy activity for them.

We've done a Genealogy Cemetery Hunt) (looking for a specific ancestor's tombstone that I know is in the Cemetery). They love that one!

We've done Ancestor Cards for Children. In this one I created a deck of playing cards with ancestor's photos and brief biography on each one. They seem to love that one too.

We've done lots of other genealogy activities such as Making a Genealogy Time Capsule part 1 and creating a Genealogy Remembrance Garden,  but this year I needed something new. A few weeks ago I decided to make a Genealogy Board Game. I'm really pleased with how it's progressing and want to share it with readers. You might want to create one for your children or grandchildren too.

Because this Genealogy Board Game is a work in progress I'm going to start at the beginning and guide you through my thought processes, my brainstorming sessions with hubby, and my trials and errors. So over several blog posts I'll walk you through and show you photos of my progress. Of course ideas and suggestions from readers are always welcome!

The first thing I did was decide what I wanted to happen during the Board Game. How could I work Genealogy and learning about their ancestors into throwing dice and moving a token around a board of squares? What would the objective (end result) be? What would happen along the way? What would I call the game?

First things first. After a few days of brainstorming and thinking I decided that the game would consist of moving a token around the board (easy part!) and every square landed on would require that a card be taken. Cards would have either a postitive (move ahead, collect money, etc) or negative (lose a turn, go back, pay money) impact on the player.

Pretty basic standard board game procedure so far. But I would be applying a genealogy twist. Every card would have something to do with our ancestors. For me, the cards were the easiest part of the game! I knew exactly what types of penalties or rewards I would have on each one. So I confess that I created my cards before I created the board or decided on the method of moving around the board or the end result.

I don't want to get ahead of myself so let me pretend that I created the physical board first (I didn't, it came much later in my thought process). I bought 2 big pieces of white bristleboard. One is for my board prototype. The second piece of bristleboard (if I use white - who knows, I might switch to a coloured piece of board) will be for the finished product which will be carefully glued or fastened down and then laminated.

I wanted to create squares for the board but ended up creating rectangles for no reason other than ease of creation and room to add text. I tried several methods for square creation. Remember this is trial and error!

I created squares with text. I created blank squares. I created squares of different colours. I created identical squares. In short, I tried at least 10 types of squares before deciding to start with blank identical squares. I would create my text squares later after getting a visual feel for the layout of the board.

Using a very old program called PICTURE IT! I created blank squares that look like old scrolls. I chopped them with my paper cutter and started taping them down. They didn't fill the white bristleboard evenly but no problem - I cut the edges off the bristleboard to make it even with the end of the squares.

Here is a photo of my squares and the start of taping them to the bristleboard.

Next I decided where HOME would be. I then created a HOME logo, cut out four identical ones and taped them down on the board.

Next came four small squares for each HOME area, leading from home to the outside edge of the game board. I used four different colours and will eventually have four tokens matching those colours. So each person playing the game will have their own colour.

In order to decide on physical placement of items on the game board I quickly cut out (using my paper cutter) coloured card stock to represent the two piles of cards I will be creating. These cards as you can see from the next photo, will go in the middle. I will explain what these piles are in another blog post when I talk about the actual cards. But for now let's concentrate on the game board which was a really interesting evolutionary item to create.
I use the term evolutionary because I changed the layout several times. I ended up keeping these squares (but added squares with text which you will see later) and so far I've kept the HOME logos (although I have a feeling I'll change those). But I changed the small coloured squares leading out from HOME to the game board squares. You'll see what I did in another post on this topic.

I have slightly over two weeks to finish (gulp!) so I have quite a bit to do and may have to take a few shortcuts but I'm pretty sure the grandchildren are going to love this game. And boy are they going to learn a lot about their ancestors! I call it Genealogy brainwashing and I'm not ashamed to use it.

Hint: That's where the Reward or Punishment cards come in. I'm not calling them Reward or Punishment of course, but I'm not going to tell you yet what titles I came up with. I'm very excited about this Genealogy Project and I'm having way too much fun making it! So stay tuned for Part 2 of my Genealogy Board Game for Children

July 24, 2010

Genealogy Treasure Hunt

I've been racking my brains for more genealogy ideas to entertain (and brainwash in a genealogical way) my grandchildren this summer. My two oldest, ages 12 and 10, come every year for a week's stay with Gramma and Grandpa. And every year I like to have a genealogy activity for them.

Readers of my blog might remember my Making a Genealogy Time Capsule part 1 , Genealogy Remembrance Garden , Ancestor Cards for Children, Genealogy Cemetery Hunt and other ideas I put together for summer genealogy fun.

Sure the grandkids enjoy doing the same activities, especially the Cemetery Hunt and playing games with their Ancestor Cards, but I want something new this year.

Given their ages, I thought this year we'd have a Genealogy Scavenger Hunt. I've been telling the grandchildren stories about their ancestors for years. I've pointed out ancestor pictures on our walls, and told them who each ancestor was.

I've shown them the genealogical treasures my own grandmother left me - their great grandfather's gold pocket watch, their great-grandmother's tea cup, great-great grandma's family bible, toast rack, silverware, etc and great-great-grandma's pot lids from Ramsgate England. I've also shown them jewellery that belonged to my grandmother and great grandmother, and a French marble clock belonging to my deceased husband.

My idea is that I'll type out a list of items they have to "find" for the scavenger hunt. They don't have to physically bring the item to me, they just have to find it and tick it off their list. They can't fudge the results because they may be called on to prove the find, that is, take me to it. Not that my grandchildren would ever think of ticking off an item they hadn't really found....

They'll have to find the photo of their great-great-great grandmother Sarah (Page) Simpson,  the photo of their grandfather (my deceased father) in his WW2 uniform as well as physical objects in my china cabinets or in my Genealogy Treasure Box.

I'm going to call this a Genealogy Treasure Hunt. The winner will get a prize (not sure what) and so will the runner-up. Since only two are playing at one time, everyone should be happy.

Now to come up with an idea for two prizes that have something to do with Genealogy but that kids will love.

June 19, 2010

Do You Remember Your First Time?

Do you remember the first time you started your genealogy hunt? I do. My father always talked about wishing he knew where in Ireland our McGinnis ancestors came from. My grandmother (on my mom's side) spoke endlessly of her family back in England.

It wasn't much of a step for me to start asking my grandmother questions. I was only 13 when I began writing down what she told me! I made little charts with the names of her parents, her grandparents and her siblings. I asked for details - when were they born, where did they live, go to school, who did they marry.....

Here is one of the first charts I made at age 14. Lots of blank spaces and question marks for names!

I'm a packrat and I kept all my original notes. I knew nothing about genealogy, in fact I didn't even know that word! No one in my family was interested and no one knew about family trees or ancestry or... anything genealogical. So I invented my own system for keeping track and recording facts. It looked much like the Family Group Sheets we see in genealogy programs today.

Then I began creating charts which helped me figure out what I had and what I was missing. Of course I had no idea how I would ever find the missing bits but I guess I was an investigator-researcher even at a young age. I figured there must be a way.

My next step at age 15 was to go to our local library (where I worked!) and find a book on finding out about one's ancestors. Luckily I discovered Angus Baxter's books on searching for ancestors in Canada and in England, which were the two countries I needed. Then I put my genealogy notes and interests aside for the next 10 or more years.

My next surge into genealogy was in my mid 20s. I was newly married, living in a new town, didn't know anyone and so I pulled out all my notes and charts to review them. I phoned my aunt to ask questions and created new charts and note pages. Here's one from those years.

Then I started searching census records on microfilm. That was my first step into the big wonderful world of libraries, archives, museums, microfilm and all the records I could find.

But how times have changed! Now there are thousands of times more records available. And they're available online. I'm so glad I started my genealogy research at a young age and have been able to take advantage of the amazing record collections available today.

But sometimes I long for those first early days when everything was new and I could sit with my aunt or my grandmother (who are long dead now) and ask a zillion questions. Do you remember your first time?

August 25, 2009

Indiana Alasdair and Lilith Croft, Tomb Raider (Making a history adventure movie with children)

My two eldest grandchildren are with me for their annual summer week with Grandma and Grandpa. This is when we enjoy genealogy treasure hunts, Cemetery Hunts, Genealogy Crossword puzzles and other fun Genealogy activities such as playing Ancestor Cards. My grandson, who is 11, is a history buff. He loves all things historical and genealogical. How great is that for a passionate genealogist to have a grandson she can pass the torch to!

We planned a Genealogy Time Capsule for this year's big event but we are not sure now if there will be time. Since we always make a movie with the kids (their choice) with Grandpa filming and offering suggestions to help them keep their thoughts organized, my role is usually during the brainstorming sessions. That's where I encourage them to write down their ideas for the plot, characters and costumes. It doesn't have to be lengthy, a page of jotted notes usually does the trick but they seem to enjoy it and it helps them stay on track.

This year we've decided to do a historically based adventure movie. It's based on the TerraCotta Soldiers found in China. These soldiers guarded the Emporer's Tomb. So the plot this year involves my grandchildren being archeologists who dig up a TerraCotta Army which is guarding a Chinese Emperor's Tomb. There is of course a curse attached to the disturbing of this Army and there will be many dangers facing the archeolgists.

Luckily I happen to have a Terracotta Army of Chinese soldiers (doesn't everyone??). I purchased them at various stores one summer to use for chessmen on my outdoor chessboard! They aren't full size but are about 2 to 3 feet tall. Making this movie will allow us to talk about history, about archeology and about China. We can even talk about different burial customs, so it touches on genealogy.

Our working title is Indiana Alasdair & Lilith Croft, Tomb Raider: The Army of Death This morning we are going to come up with ideas for the various scenes, the overall story line and costumes. I always get a small role in these movies, so am not sure what they will come up for me this year! Last year I was a grandmother who was turned into a zombie by a zombie dog (our dog Barley), but saved with a magic potion by a little girl (my granddaughter). The part required me to have fake blood dripping from my mouth and to stumble around our living room doing a zombie walk a la Michael Jackson. I hope this year my part will be a little easier and require less messy makeup!

This afternoon Grandpa will film them. This usually lasts several hours, there is lots of discussion on location, costumes, dialogue, etc. Often it extends to 2 OR 3 days of filming, then trying to keep the grandchildren entertained while Grandpa uses his computerized editing program to edit, add sound, credits and titles, then burn the movie to a CD ROM. The grandchildren take that home with them to show family. All in all it's a fun way to spend time with the kids, to talk about history or genealogy, and to introduce many educational aspects to a fun activity.

May 12, 2009

Genealogy Remembrance Garden

Spring is here. It's time to start planting flowers and shrubs outside. I think many of us will also be planting vegetables this spring! I always have a herb garden and love to cook using those fresh herbs or the herbs I dry over the winter months.

This year I am thinking about all my ancestors who have long since left this earth. I decided that in their memory I'm going to create a Genealogy Remembrance Garden. My garden will have plants and flowers of course, but it will also have items (garden architecture) that remind me of various ancestors.

For example my mother was allergic to flowers so I will place another elephant bell in her memory in my meditation garden at the side of the house. I call it my Meditation Garden because it is quiet and peaceful.

My great grandmother ran a boarding house and my grandmother always said her mother was a fantastic cook. I will add another batch of sage to my herb garden in her memory.

My existing meditation Garden is a large area covered in small stones. I placed potted plants, a small pond, and many architectural items that are pleasing to me such as elephant bells, coloured glass and marbles, bird cages, windchimes, pieces of driftwood, statues and other objects I find.

My grandmother loved anything red so we'll plant a red flowering plant for her. I haven't decided what kind yet.

For ancestors who I did not know personally, I'll choose a plant or object that I feel represents them. I'll look for another birdcage for my great grandfather, who was said to love birds.

My husband moves large boulders that we find on our farm property, and I have started creating a life-size chessboard with pieces. I think I should find chess pieces to represent my grandfather, who enjoyed an evening chess game!

My husband wants to have small photo plaques made for each ancestor we remember in the Remembrance Garden, so that I can place those with the item or in the flower bed beside their flower, or in the earth of the plant I add in their memory. I like that idea so he is figuring out how this can be done. We thought we could always have them done at a local cemetery where they make photo plaques to install on tombstones.

It's going to be a fun planting time this year. This might also be a really fun project to work on with your children or grandchildren! Get them involved. Talk about each ancestor you are going to add to the Remembrance Garden and let the children come up with a plant or object that represents a specific ancestor. Why not add an item for each grandchild too? They are your descendants and the Genealogy Remembrance Garden doesn't just have to be about ancestors.

May 9, 2009

Tombstone Rubbings (again) and Coffin Plates as an Art Form

Patricia posted a comment yesterday informing me that this practice is not allowed in many cemeteries. I had no idea this was the case so please do ask the cemetery before heading out to do a tombstone rubbing.

I also want to thank my friend Howard for sending me three very helpful links regarding tombstone rubbings.

There is much good info here:

Special problems in Connecticut:

There may be other similar things in >other states:

Because tombstone rubbings are so controversial and may not be allowed, I came up with another idea of an art-genealogy activity with my grandchildren. I realize not everyone will have access to what is required for this project, but lucky me, I'm married to a man who collects the items needed!

Coffin plates. These are the decorative metal plates, often beautifully engraved with designs, which have the deceased's name and dates of birth and death. These metal plates were never meant to be attached to the coffin. They were usually propped on a stand during the funeral then given to the family of the departed person, as a memento.

In earlier years some were attached to the coffin and buried but around the 1860s it began to be popular to keep them in the family to remember the loved one who had died. Different countries have different traditions of course and not all countries used coffin plates or if they did, they did not consider them a family keepsake.

In any case, we have a fairly large collection of these beautifully decorated coffin plates. My oldest grandson has always loved sitting on the steps with his grandfather, reading the ornate script and asking questions about the individual whose coffin plate he held. Every summer they follow the same routine - out come the coffin plates that are not on display and our grandson spends a happy hour or two with Grandpa.

Some of our coffin plates are of ancestors long deceased (such as this one for John Elgie, a great uncle), but most are not family members. We do however research the names on every coffin plate we obtain, so usually we have a pretty good family history on each one. I think it will be fun and interesting to talk about the one(s) they choose - the time period it was made, the artwork and the person for whom it was made.

We will let each of the grandchildren choose a coffin plate (or plates) that they would like to rub and have framed for their wall. I think they are going to enjoy this activity, and I may even save it for a rainy day!

May 8, 2009

Tombstone Rubbings

While wandering around the Cemetery the day before my parents' Memorial Service last weekend, I was quite struck by the many artistic and ornate tombstones I saw. Many are quite beautiful, ornate carvings with delicate lines and images.

It struck me that tombstone rubbings are not often seen, yet they are a beautiful and fun way to preserve an old tombstone and to memorialize an individual. Tombstone rubbings allow you to create artwork for your home and to encourage children or grandchildren to take an interest in genealogy.

Since my two eldest grandchildren (9 and 11) are coming in a few months for their annual holiday on Grandma and Grandpa's farm, I need a new genealogy project for them. In past years I have done a Cemetery Hunt, created Ancestor Cards and Genealogy Crossword Puzzles.

This year not only are we going to create a Genealogy Time Capsule, but I have decided I am going to incorporate Tombstone Rubbings!

You need:

White paper (Rice paper or plain white paper such as butcher's paper)
Rubbing wax, charcoal or large black crayon
Soft brush
Masking tape

The first thing to do is to gently and carefully clean the tombstone you have chosen. Don't use harsh cleaning materials or soap, just a bit of water and your soft brush. You want to remove any bird droppings, moss, etc if possible. But be careful to not damage the stone in any way.

If you use water to wash off the stone you will have to wait until it is thoroughly dry before taking the next step. Now you need to cut your paper so that it is the right size to cover the tombstone. Tape it securely to the stone so that it doesn't slip. I like to go around the sides quite far and tape the paper there. This will help you get a good non-blurred image as you rub.

Take your rubbing wax or crayon and start rubbing around the edges of the tombstone. Start lightly, as you can always go back and darken the rubbing later. When the edges are done, move to the central part of the stone. It's a personal choice as to how dark or how light you want the rubbing to be.

When you are satisfied with your rubbing, carefully remove the masking tape from the edges, roll the rubbing up (gently!) and take it home to frame or hang on your wall as is. If you used charcoal you should spray your rubbing with hair spray to help set the charcoal before you roll it up.

Please be respectful of any tombstone you are doing a rubbing on. Do not take any chances on damaging a stone, and remember that someone's loved one lies beneath it.

This will be a fun activity to do with my grandchildren and I have an idea for incorporating it into yet another Genealogy Activity with them! More on that tomorrow.....

May 4, 2009

Making a Genealogy Time Capsule Part 3

Once you have your Genealogy Time Capsule made, you're ready to take the final step. You can hide it inside a building or outside.

You can hide it in the rafters of an attic, or above the pipes or duct-work in a basement. Behind the insulation works well too. If you happen to be renovating, hide it in the walls!

You can bury it - choose a prominent landmark (a tree, a boulder, etc) if you want to remember where it is.

Choose the driest spot you can find. For example on top of a hill is better than in a low lying area or a ditch.

A good location is under your deck or porch, as it is dry and near a house.

If you have a walkway or patio you could lift one of the stones and bury it underneath.

Remember, you are wrapping your time capsule in many many layers of plastic if it's being buried outside so don't worry about someone in the future mistaking it for junk! I'm quite sure their curiosity would compell them to unwrap it.

You can make this very ceremonial by including your children or grandchildren. Have them plant a tree on top of the spot you have chosen. Impress on them that they are to show or tell their children where it is. In turn those children are to tell the next generation and so on until the date you have chosen for it to be dug up and opened.

I was in Guelph this weekend for my parents' Memorial Service. My two oldest grandchilden (age 11 and 9) were there so I told them about the Genealogy Time Capsule. They were intrigued and enthused, and looking forward to making one on their annual week-long stay at our home this summer. We have decided to establish a date - perhaps July 1st which is Canada Day, and a year, when the Genealogy Time Capsule is to be opened. We left them discussing whether they want to open the Genealogy Time Capsule 50 years from now in their lifetime, or 250 years from now!

May 3, 2009

Making a Genealogy Time Capsule Part 2

We have talked previously about what items to put into a Genealogy Time Capsule. Now it's time to think about what kind of container we will use.

The first thing is to decide if you are going to hide your Genealogy Time Capsule inside a building or outside. If inside, the container does not have to be waterproof. If outside, you must waterproof it as best you can.

We thought of using the following easy-to-find containers:

1. Metal Cookie Tin
2. Plastic storage box
3. Old tackle or tool box (we found an old army ammo box which was perfect!)
4. a sturdy box that an appliance came in
5. large dog biscuit container with lid

Any of the above are fine to simply hide somewhere in your house or other building (we'll talk about locations for your Genealogy Time Capsule in a separate post)

If you are going to hide your Capsule outside you can use the Metal Cookie Tin, or plastic boxes but not a cardboard one. The metal tins or plastic tubs are not waterproof where they close so you must waterproof the closures. You can do this by caulking the edges. You can also wrap the entire container in plastic bags and seal tightly with clear packing tape.

To be extra cautious, you can tuck your items into ziplock plastic baggies before placing them in the containers.

You can also use plastic PVC piping and end caps. These can be purchased at any hardware or plumbing store. Simply cut the PVC piping to the lengths you want, add your genealogy items and seal the end caps with plumber's adhesive.

If you are involving children or grandchildren in this project (as we plan to do) why not give each of them their own smaller container. They can fill it with items they choose, with letters and drawings they have created, with toys, and so on. Then you can seal their smaller container and place it inside the larger Genealogy Time Capsule. We thought a large plastic Cottage Cheese container or Wet Ones Container would work well for our grandchildren.

May 2, 2009

Making a Genealogy Time Capsule

When my husband and I were building our home in the country 12 years ago, we filled a 1-Litre plastic pop bottle with odds and ends of items for a make-shift Time Capsule. We dropped in coins, a note explaining who we were, and other small items that we thought would be fun for someone to find whenever our house is torn down. We sealed the bottle and dropped it between the walls of the basement.

Now our idea is to create a Genealogy Time Capsule to be found and opened in 100, 200 or even more years from now. So let me share with you our ideas for what we could put in our Genealogy Time Capsule.

1. Our Family Trees. Print a chart or create your own on a pre-printed blank tree.
2. Photographs of us, our family and other loved ones - all labelled on the reverse
3. Dated and signed letters that we write to whoever finds the Time Capsule
4. Newspaper Clippings - news, obituaries, anything of interest genealogically speaking
5. Copies of documents such as birth certificates, marriage records, family bible pages

We also plan to add such items as digital cameras (a non working one of course!), an old pair of glasses, an old watch, a couple of old keys - anything that we ourselves would love to find that belonged to someone 100 years ago. Think how much fun it would be to find a pair of glasses that your great great grandmother wore... Think in terms of artifacts that you'd like to find. What you use today will be an artifact in the future!

Burn a CD ROM with photos or other genealogical information. How about including a video? Sure it might not be able to be read in the future but then again, some information might be gleaned from it and a CD doesn't cost very much to include

Put in something you made - a doily that you crocheted, a scarf you knit, a needlepoint (does anyone do these anymore?), a picture you drew, a tiny figurine you carved from wood or soapstone. How about a favourite recipe? That would give future generations an idea of the kinds of food their ancestor made and ate. Even better if it's an old family recipe.

A child's toy, doll or stuffed animal would be nice to include, especially if you involve your children or grand-children in the project. Let them choose an item or two that says something about them. Perhaps they can write or print a little note to go with the item. Date it, put their name and draw a picture of themselves playing with it. Or take a photo of them playing with the toy.

You can add anything you want but our plan was to keep it as genealogy-related as possible. I'm definitely putting in coins from this year. What fun it would be to find coins that someone had put in a Genealogy Time Capsule 100 years ago!

Put all your items in ziplock plastic bags to help protect from water. Go crazy, let your imagination run wild. Involve your entire family and make this a way and time to spend some quality time together, quality time that involves genealogy.

My next post will give you our ideas and tips on containers you might want to use for your Genealogy Time Capsule. We have several different suggestions so stay tuned! We also have quite a few ideas for the location of your Genealogy Time Capsule so again if this is a project that sparks your interest, keep watching for that post on this blog.