Should you encourage your children to study genealogy? This hobby continues to grow in popularity.

According to Genealogy.com, a recent poll reports that 60 percent of Americans are interested in tracing their roots, up 45 percent only five years ago. Here are some tips, as well as reasons why, or why not to study your family tree.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Researching Your Ancestors

Advantages of Learning Genealogy

Learning about genealogy will give you a deeper appreciation of history. As you research how your ancestors fought wars and braved frontiers, it connects you to history more than if you’d just read facts in a history book.

This hobby can also encourage connecting with new relatives. Studying genealogy is a hobby that not only arouses an interest in history, but it can also lead you to family members you never knew you had. For example, if you learn that you had a great grandfather who settled down in Kankakee, Illinois, chances are you may have a group of relatives still living around that area.

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Ideas for Teaching Genealogy to Your Children

  • Visit family graves. Start by visiting cemeteries where ancestors are buried. Or, if you don’t live where any family members are buried, plan to visit cemeteries when you travel. Take pictures of the grave headstones, and share stories your parents told of your relatives.
  • Use scrapbooking. Collect old pictures of ancestors and combine a scrapbooking hobby with genealogy. Just by examining pictures of relatives your children have never met, you’ve sparked an interest in knowing their family roots.
  • Use the internet. Sites such as Genealogy for Kids provide a variety of fun games to pique a child’s interest in genealogy. At first, your children may not care about studying about dead people, but once they start playing some games, they’re more prone to signing up as “Missing Ancestor” detectives.
  • Make Tapes about Your Ancestors. Drawing from all the family history that you know, tape a recording of everything that’s been passed down to you from your grandparents. Then after your children have helped you make a recording, share stories about your ancestors. For example, a San Antonio mom got this idea when she discovered (by accident) a closet full of tapes recorded by her late grandfather in the mid-1970s. Through tears, she listened to a familiar voice from the past as he related how her two great-grandfathers came over from Ireland to settle in Tennessee in the early 1800s. This gave her an idea to convert the tapes onto a CD, which she intends to pass on to her future grandchildren.

Should All Parents Encourage Genealogy?

Is promoting genealogy always a good idea? That’s a personal decision only you can make. In most situations, it’s a good thing. However, you may decide against it if you’re an adoptive parent. Be aware that not knowing your roots can make an adopted child feel insecure, so it’s better not to focus on a family tree.

It’s also important for teachers to be sensitive to the needs of adopted children in their classrooms when teaching genealogy. For example, teachers should never single out adopted students by asking, “Who’s adopted?” Better yet, they shouldn’t do family tree projects if they know of any adopted students in their classrooms.

Finally, if do decide to teach your children about genealogy, be sure to be enthusiastic. If your children sense your excitement, they’ll want to explore their family tree just as much as you want to research it.