We recently learned that the Mongolian emperor Genghis Khan was not only ruler over a vast amount of land but he was also the patriarch over one of the largest family trees that has ever been traced. He can be credited with an amazing 16 million descendants.
At first, Nicholas didn’t know what the term “family tree” meant so I took some time to show him Genghis Khan’s lineage while we were visiting the Irving Arts Center. We talked about genealogy, the difference between a descendant and an ancestor, and how people research their family trees so that they can learn who and where their family came from.
She Is Dallas info: You can learn more about Genghis Khan’s family tree as well as many other fascinating facts about the leader and Ancient Mongolia by visiting the Genghis Khan exhibit at the Irving Arts Center through September 30, 2011. Check out the Irving Arts Center website for more information or follow Irving Arts Center on Facebook. She is Dallas is working with the Irving Arts Center to promote the exhibit online.
Nicholas started asking questions about his own family tree and seemed interested in learning more. So we started with a trip to our library. You can find everything at the library! We found several books about family history written on a child’s level so that they were easy to understand.
We decided to just start with a very basic family tree of four generations – Nicholas, parents, grandparents, and great grandparents. I found pictures of everyone and printed them in a thumbnail size but you could just cut out the faces from any size picture that you already have printed. I got some 12×12 cardstock, tape, and a marker.
I explained to Nicholas how the term “family tree” works well for researching family history because of the many branches in the family that come from a single trunk. Nicholas cut out a tree form from the green and brown paper.
We cut out all of the faces for our project then Nicholas started placing them on his tree. He started with himself and Rachel and easily placed most of the other faces in their proper places on the tree. He either hasn’t met or doesn’t remember much about his great grandparents so he needed help with those. He also had trouble when working with some of the maiden names that he has never heard of.
He had fun placing all of the faces in their proper place. He said it was just like a puzzle. Wow! I’m so glad that he can understand why people have so much fun researching their family tree. It’s really just the ultimate puzzle with answers to be found all over the world in all different periods of time.
Nicholas added the lines to show the relationships for all the people and he was done. He is much more proud of his project than I would have ever expected.
Nicholas couldn’t wait to show off his family tree. We got on a Skype call with my dad so that Nicholas could show him the tree. The two of them started talking about the people and my dad shared more stories about their ancestors in the pictures, who fought in a war, and even what life was like when he was little.
I could see Nicholas getting excited and actually interested in these stories that my dad shared with him. I think he normally might have just brushed off these stories and not paid attention to the old man babbling away about people he’s never met. But having the tree in front of him, he could see these people’s faces and understand how he is related to them. It seemed to bring the stories to life for him. I’m so glad that we took some time for him to learn about this fascinating part of his history.
To get started tracing your family history, ask your family some basic questions about names, dates, and places of your ancestors. There are so many incredible resources available to make it easy to fill in more gaps of your story with just a little bit of information that you can gather from living relatives. Libraries are a great place to start. Many have special genealogy sections with printed family histories and census records. You can also check court houses for birth, marriage, and death records as well as land deeds to learn more about your family and where they came from.
In addition, there are also plenty of websites to help do family history research online. Here are a few that I’ve used in the past.
Take time now to help children learn about their family tree and the stories from their family history so that this rich history can be preserved for future generations.
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