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August 17, 2007

Genealogy Cemetery Hunt for Children

Last summer when my two eldest grandchildren came for their annual week long visit, I set up a Genealogy Game for them.

I was desperate for something to do with them and suddenly thought I'd take them on a hunt through a local cemetery for the grave of my great-grandmother's brother. I figured they'd be fascinated by the hunt for half an hour tops but it would help fill the time!

I gave each of them (8 year old and 6 year old) a large piece of paper with the last name of the ancestor we were hunting for (VOLLICK). I gave them a brief outline of the family relationship.

We talked about respecting the graves and gravestones of those buried in the cemetery and "manners" one should use in a cemetery. Then we set out.

The only other rule I gave them was that they must be able to see ME at all times. I didn't make the mistake of saying that I had to be able to see THEM, because of course that can be argued! ("Gee grandma I THOUGHT you could see me even if I went further down the path.....")

We walked together for awhile then they went off on their own. They loved this game. Two hours later they were still walking around the stones, reading every single one out loud and running back to ask me questions. They were fascinated by the ages of some of those who were buried there, particularly the children.

This gave us so many opportunities for learning - math skills in figuring out ages from birth and death dates, reading, history lessons when war graves were spotted and talking about young children dying more frequently in the 1800s than now, respect for ancestors and our dead, etc.

We ended up having a picnic on a park bench in the cemetery, then more hunting (yes we were successful!) and then off we went home, having spent an entire afternoon in the Cemetery.

The next day they asked me if we could go on another hunt! All in all a very successful Genealogy "game".

One of the questions they asked was why some of the gravestones were partially hidden by overgrown grass, and very dirty - so next summer I'll give each of them a tiny soft brush to brush off any dirt and leaves they find.

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