As genealogists we would all like to think that what we do will matter to future generations. We hope that our efforts will mean something and that after we are gone, someone will pick up where we left off. What can we do to help instill an interest in the younger generation? 

Recently I’ve had grandkids express an interest in “doing what you do, Nana.” Frankly it surprised me because they are still relatively young. But when we recently held a family reunion with our kids and grandkids, we decided to weave in a few family history experiences along with the other activities. 

genealogy, family history, FamilySearch Discovery Center, family reunion
Using the iPads to learn about their ancestors 

One thing we did was to take the grandkids down to Family History Discovery Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. They have varied activities to help families learn about their family history and many, if not most of the activities are very child-friendly. 

FamilySearch Discovery Center, teaching children genealogy, reunion
Seeing their ancestors’ immigration 

Upon entering the center, we received an iPad to use during our visit. After logging into a FamilySearch account,* we placed the iPad on various displays and had a totally customized experience as we learned about our ancestors. 

Drawing on what is in the FamilySearch tree, we had a choice of a variety of activities. One activity allowed us to see our ancestors’ immigration and life events displayed on a large map. In one of the rooms in the center, a display transformed the room to the ancestor’s time period while we learned what life was like for them.

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Grandchild’s face in a costume of his ancestry 

Another display showed the ethnic origins of our ancestors. The kids loved being able to have their picture taken in their ancestor’s costume. 

Another booth allowed us to record some of our own life experiences. The kids thought it was a lot of fun to answer the questions. 

The next two days of our reunion were filled with fun activities such as riding go-karts, swimming, bowling, boating at the lake and roasting hot dogs over the fire in the mountains. We had a great time together. 

On the last day of our reunion, following a dinner of barbecue chicken, corn on the cob, pasta salad and watermelon, one of our daughters pulled the kids aside for an activity that helped the kids learn about a couple of their ancestors.

With a little help, the kids had fun painting the backdrop for the play they would put on. We had to giggle when we saw the 2 year old busily painting his legs instead. Thankfully it was a very washable paint.

genealogy, family history, FamilySearch Discovery Center, family reunion
Painting the backdrop for the play

Ancestry, Genealogy, reunion activities

After they finished painting the backdrop, our daughter gathered the children around her and told them two stories about their ancestors. One story was from their grandpa’s side and one was from my side of the family.

Then the adults pulled up their lawn chairs and enjoyed the production. While our daughter and her husband narrated the stories, the kids acted out the scenes from their ancestors’ lives, adding a little of their own creative interpretation. While I doubt my ancestor actually did the “happy dance,” when the thief who stole his last morsel of bread for his family died or that my husband’s ancestor turned into the headless horseman following his trek across the plains as portrayed by another grandchild, we surely enjoyed their dramatized versions and overall, I think our ancestors would have approved.

family reunion activity, genealogy play, ancestors, ancestry, pioneers
I don’t remember a headless horseman as part of the story!

Following the play,  we enjoyed a dutch oven dessert and a firework show. The reunion was a success and a wonderful time to reflect on the past, enjoy the present and look forward to more time together in the

After everyone went home and the clutter was picked up, the sticky floors were mopped and the mountains of laundry were done, I reflected on our reunion and felt that deep contentment that comes from having spent time with those you love . We had a great time and I wondered if just maybe in the process of having fun, we were also able to instill in our grandkids a desire to learn a little more about their heritage.

The cast 

One of my favorite comments came from a nine year old grandson. Because he was one who has expressed an interest in doing genealogy,  I asked him after visiting the Discovery Center what he would like to help with. He looked at me and said, “Did you notice that some of the people in our tree didn’t have a death date? We don’t even know when and where they died. That bothered me. I want to help find that information.”

I am amazed how quickly he picked up on the missing information and thrilled to learn that someone from the younger generations is already ready and willing for me to pass it on. 

*To participate using an ipad at the Discover Center,  you must have a FamilySearch account. To sign up for an account,  you must be 8 years and up. Set up the account prior to visiting the center. Younger children will be outfitted with a backpack and hat to help them feel part of the adventure. 

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2015, All rights reserved

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4 thoughts on “Pass It On

  1. The play sounds like an updated version of "The Worst Christmas Pageant Ever." HA HA HA. I know it warmed your heart to see those kids telling the story of their ancestors. One day they'll be reminiscing, "Remember the play we did that summer?"

  2. It was funny to hear the story being narrated true to the facts and the kids taking off with their own version of the actions. It was fun and I am betting they could retell the story. I just hope they remember the real version!

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