We generally think that an interest in genealogy starts in middle age or perhaps later. Yet those of us who have spent a lot of time in genealogy libraries and in courthouses almost always can tell you of exceptions. One of the leading professional genealogists I know is now in his late twenties but got started before he was old enough to obtain a driver's license. His mother used to drive him to the libraries and courthouses. He reports that he was interested at an even earlier age but delayed until his early teens simply because he didn't know how to get started when he was younger.
Professional genealogist David Lambert is very proud of another genealogist in his family: his eleven-year-old daughter, Brenda, is an accomplished researcher, capable of doing high-quality research, even when her father isn't around.
I have also given several genealogy presentations to third graders and have been amazed at the enthusiastic responses. I always hand out blank pedigree charts at these classroom sessions and explain the use of the charts. One teacher later told me that several students came back to school the next day with filled-in pedigree charts, even though that was not an assignment.
I was a "late bloomer." I conducted my first genealogy research project at the age of fifteen as an English class writing assignment. I was hooked then although school, military service, and starting a family delayed my family tree research for several more years.
There are many more such examples. Perhaps you had an early interest, even if you delayed that interest until later in life.
Is an interest in one's ancestry really a personal interest that doesn't develop until mid-life? Or have we simply not provided the proper introduction to youngsters? One new book seeks to find out by providing that introduction.
Roots for Kids by Susan Provost Beller seeks to provide the genealogy introduction and foundation for school children. The book is designed as a project in which a child and adult work together. The adult does not need to be a genealogy expert; both can learn at the same time.
The book is designed as a twelve-week lesson plan with one "class" per week. It should work well either in a classroom environment with multiple students or at home in a one-on-one setting. The book seems to be aimed at fourth through six grades (ages 9 through 11) in a teacher/student environment. It could also work well with older students as a self-taught genealogy course with minimal teacher involvement, if any. If this book can become available in every junior high school library, I suspect the number of young genealogists will multiply every year!
As in most genealogy "how to" books, Roots for Kids starts off with an introduction to genealogy. I especially like the idea that the introduction stresses the fact that a family tree is a collection of stories, not a simple collection of names, dates, and places. Quoting from Chapter One: An Introduction to Genealogy:
Each person on your family tree is a story waiting to be told. No matter what a person did in his life, he has a story to tell. This book will help you to discover how to find those stories. Some of the stories will be dull, but most of them are really interesting. You may be surprised to find all the great things your ancestors did in their lifetimes. Some of the stories are also a lot of fun.
One example is a story of a relative of my husband. This man has been dead for over ninety years but one of his stories is remembered to this day. As a kid, he was famous for his Halloween pranks. One Halloween he and some friends managed to coax the neighbor's cow up onto the roof of a barn. It took the townspeople most of the next day to get the poor cow back down!
I suspect every mischievous nine-year-old can identify with that story. In fact, this "older child" also finds it amusing!
The remainder of Roots for Kids builds upon similar material; it frequently stresses why the reader will find the family tree to be so interesting.
Roots for Kids then leads the student (and teacher) through discussions of relationships (what is a second cousin?), how to ask questions, how to organize research materials, and how to use the Internet to conduct research in local, state, and national records. Susan Provost Beller weaves her own stories in and out of this book in order to give examples of what the student may find in his own family tree.
The current Roots for Kids is the Second Edition. I never saw the First Edition, but the new book's advertising states that a lot of new material has been added about using the many online resources of libraries and historical societies without leaving home.
Susan Beller is well qualified to write this book, and her experience shows. She has been involved in genealogical research for more than three decades. In addition to her teaching experience with young people, she has taught advanced genealogy courses to adult education classes.
Roots for Kids is an excellent resource for teaching children about their own history. Along the way, they gain meaningful experience in research methods, history, geography, language, communication, analysis, and culture, to name a few disciplines. Its format as step-by-step lesson plans makes for a logical sequence through what can be a fascinating lifelong study for youngsters and old-timers alike. This book should work well in either a classroom setting or one-on-one. If you have an opportunity to teach youngsters, I strongly suggest that you should obtain this book and study it closely.
Roots for Kids by Susan Provost Beller is published by Genealogical Publishing Company and should be available through any bookstore if you specify ISBN: 9780806317779. In addition, you can purchase it for $19.95 plus taxes and shipping from the publisher's safe and secure online ordering system at http://www.genealogical.com/products/Roots%20for%20Kids%20%202nd%20Edition/422.html.