Rather than say, “On Tuesday night we’re going to sit down together and study genealogy for two hours,” nonchalantly give the kids bits of information about their ancestors. Find interesting facts about your family or think of stories you’d like to share. Then, casually mention some details, such as “He looks like your great-uncle Freddy, the one who went off to sea and never returned.” Don’t offer more information until your kids ask for it. Teens are more likely to resist if it seems like you’re trying too hard to interest them.
Learn as much as you can about your family’s stories from diaries, family records, and research about what life was like during your great-great grandfather or great-grandmother’s life. Inspect your heirlooms for clues about your ancestors' lives. The type of furniture they used might show their social status and tastes. Tell your family an interesting story about your ancestors while you’re all gathered together. Then, as they realize how fascinating genealogy can be, decide on an evening to tell more stories together. Have each family member research an ancestor and tell a story about her life. If they can’t find much information, they can make up a story based on what they do know about her life and that era of the past.
Find historic sites to visit and talk about how they related to your ancestors’ lives. Visit a historic mansion, for instance, and talk about how this home would be similar to or different from the homes of particular ancestors who lived during the same time period. Visit the site of a historic battle and talk about what life must have been like for any family members living in the area during that time. Challenge everyone to think of local destinations that will help you learn more about the past.
Compile a book of family stories and pictures to share with other relatives. Use the stories you’ve told each other, or write to others. Strengthen your research skills by using the National Archives to search for your ancestors and requesting records that interest you. Have any artists in the family illustrate the stories, and include relevant photos. With online and computer technology, you can even print your own book of family facts.
Share your book with loved ones at your next family gathering. This could help the children feel a connection with their roots and be proud to share with the extended family what they’ve learned and created.