Whether you’re looking to explore your own family history for the first time or you want to help the youth of your family gain an appreciation for their history, there are many genealogy activities for kids that can help.
From the youngest members of your family to teens with an interest in where they came from, genealogy can become not only an informative, but also a fun, new hobby.
Here are ten genealogy activities for kids, with options for all ages.
1. Interview a Family Member
Sit down one-on-one with an older family member — a parent, grandparent, great-grandparent, or an aunt or uncle for example. Think of at least five questions to ask them about what life was like when they were your age. For example:
- What was their favorite toy?
- Did they have a favorite game or sport?
- Who was their best friend?
- Did they have any pets?
- Where was their favorite place to go (from everyday places to favorite vacation spots)?
Think of your own answers to those questions too. Then you can swap stories and get to know each other even better.
2. Sit in on Story Time
The next time you have a family get-together, ask older members of the family to share some of their favorite stories from their lives. Gather around and listen to how their lives were different, and similar, to your own. Ask questions if you have them.
People often love sharing stories but don’t feel like others want to hear them. So offer an interested ear, and you might learn some fascinating things about your family.
3. Fill Out a First Family Tree
If you’ve never created a family tree before, fill out your first one. Your parents or guardians can help you get started, and you can talk to other members of your family to learn more.
Have an adult download and print a family tree template for you to fill out. The U.S. National Archives has several family tree chart designs available for free at the link below.
4. Visit a Place of Family Significance
Have a parent or other adult take you to visit a place that’s important to your family.
For example, if your parents didn’t grow up in the town where you live now, perhaps they can take you to visit their old hometown. See what parks they played in, what schools they went to, and where they used to live.
Other places that could make for a fun family history day trip or vacation include:
- the place where your ancestors first arrived in the country;
- museums or battlefields from wars ancestors fought in;
- where couples in your family (such as your grandparents) first met.
When you interview your relatives or listen to their stories, you might get new ideas of places you’d like to visit.
5. Look Through Old Family Photos
Ask your parents, grandparents, or other relatives to show you old family photos.
You’ll see older pictures of people you know (like your parents when they were younger) and even relatives you’ve never met. You might see things like the homes they lived in, the pets they had, and the clothes they wore.
6. Make a Favorite Family Recipe
Is there a favorite family recipe that’s been passed down for generations? Ask an adult to help you make it so you can experience the same delicious recipe your family has for a long time.
No old recipes to try? Ask someone to help you write down one of your favorite recipes so you can pass it around in your family yourself and start a new tradition.
7. Experience “Old-Fashioned” Activities
Your ancestors didn’t have all the luxuries and technology you have today. Things were done differently, and it might be fun to try some old-fashioned activities.
- Try churning butter (or do a modified version by shaking cream until it turns into homemade butter).
- Play classic games outside like hopscotch or jumping rope.
- Write a letter by hand (to a family member or friend for example).
If you live near local museums, you might even be able to find lessons and events that would let you experience several older activities all at once.
8. Map Family Migration
Do you know what parts of the world your ancestors came from? Families can have a diverse heritage, and it can be fun to see how they came together from across the globe.
Make a list of family members you know about and where they originally lived or migrated from. Then choose a type of map, such as:
- a paper map you can mark with a pen or use pushpins in (with an adult’s supervision);
- a globe;
- Google Maps or another digital map.
Use whatever you have easy access to. Then go down your list and find the locations where your family came from.
How far apart did they live? Did a lot of your family come from one region? When did your ancestors leave these areas (or do they, and you, still live there)?
Your family’s migration map can tell you stories of how you ended up where you are today.
9. Trace Family Histories Through DNA
Ask adults in your family if they had a family history DNA test done. If so, see if they’re willing to share some of the results with you. This could tell you things like:
- new places your family came from that you didn’t already know about;
- different cultures your family came from;
- if you have family members in the area you haven’t met yet (like distant cousins).
While this will only show you information about that adult’s branch of your family tree, it can spark new questions and fill in the blanks if relatives you interviewed didn’t know where their own family came from.
10. Safeguard New Family Stories
Family history isn’t just about researching your past. It’s also about preserving your own stories for others to enjoy and learn from in the future.
How can you do this?
- Take new family photos and create a photo album (digital or physical) that can be passed down or shared with others in your family.
- Fill out your own family history interview or questionnaire. You can do this every year if you’d like so you can see how your life changed from year-to-year when you’re older.
- Create a time capsule to be opened far in the future. Include news stories from this year, a previous favorite toy you’re willing to let go, a photo of you this year, a drawing you’ve done, or anything that represents who you are right now that you would want to remember in the future.
You’re never too young to learn about your family history. Learning more about your family’s past can be a great way to build your relationships with relatives in the present.