Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Little girls, family trees and a cemetery trip

Every year on my "blogiversary" I like to give a shout out to my readers to let you know that I am still alive and well (though blogging may be light). This year I missed the chance (by about a week) to celebrate the day seven years ago that I started blogging. I had completely forgotten! When I took a look at my calendar to see what had been keeping my attention on the anniversary of the day I started my genealogy blogs, I was happy to see that I had spent my time celebrating genealogy in a very special way: teaching family history to kids.

I had scheduled a two day Ancestor Detector Day Camp for young girls to begin (unbeknownst to me) on my genealogy blogs' anniversary! I had a wonderful time spending the first part of the week teaching a group from a local troop of American Heritage Girls ages 9-11 how to search for and celebrate their family history.

Here are a few highlights from our day camp as the girls and I worked to help them fulfill the American Heritage Girl requirements so that they could earn their Ancestor Detector Badges:

Day 1: Family History Scrapbooks!

Prior to our first meeting, the girls gathered family documents, made phone calls to grandparents, and started completing a pedigree chart of their family tree. During our first gathering each girl began a scrapbook to include all of the documents, photos, and other memorabilia they had gathered. I wish I had gotten a photo of all the creative books they made! Below is the AHG handbook page with badge requirements for the Ancestor Detector badge, and two of my daughters' scrapbooks:

Day 2, Part 1: Cemetery field trip! 

We started our second day camp day by gathering at a local historic cemetery. We live in an area whose history is not easily visible, and I wanted the girls to see some of the headstones dating back to the mid-19th-century and written in the native language of the early German settlers to our area. I was happy to introduce the girls to this historic place, and to help them to understand how to properly respect the final resting places of those that came before us. 

As part of our field trip, we searched for the headstones of the first settlers to our area (after whom many streets and schools are named), and did a little cemetery scavenger hunt for fun. (We used the form below created by Jennifer of Climbing My Family Tree.)

It was a beautiful day at the cemetery, but we needed the refreshing lemonade that we brought to enjoy under the shade trees after our romp around the cemetery grounds in the heat.

Day 2, Part 2: Heirlooms and ancestral countries! 

Immediately after the hot trip to the cemetery, we gathered (in a cooler place) to complete day two of our Ancestor Detector badge work. The day's focus included the countries of our ancestors, which each girl had done a little research on at home before our gathering.

We had a great assortment of ancestors from various countries represented, including Germany, Hungary, Poland, Italy, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Spain, Lebanon, Mexico, Haiti and even the little island of Domenica in the Caribbean.

The final part of our session involved a "show and tell" of family heirlooms (or photos of them). Each day camper brought in a family heirloom (or a photo of one) to share with the other girls. They told the stories of their items and to whom they had belonged: a little lesson in heirloom provenance. My day camper daughter chose to share this little bronzed boot that was worn by her great-great-grand-aunt as a baby during the 1920s:

The short time I spent with these girls was not nearly enough, but I hope it got them thinking about their family history and lit the spark for a little more ancestral research this summer. At the very least, maybe they'll think of making another phone call to their grandmothers!

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