165 Fun Family History Activities for Kids
(Linda Mahood Morgan)

 

**= Activities suitable or easily adapted for younger children.

1. Obtain a family group record and fill it out to best of your knowledge.  Ask your parents to help you fill in the rest.

2. Obtain a pedigree chart and fill it out to the best of your knowledge.  Ask your parents and grandparents to help you fill it out further.

3. **In the 1941 Caldecott Award winning picture book, "They Were Strong and Good", author/illustrator Robert Lawson honors his ancestors through words and drawings.  Obtain a copy of the book and read it.  Tell what you know about your parents and grandparent’s lives in words and drawings.

4. **Have one of your grandparents teach you how to prepare a favorite food from their childhood.

5. **Learn about a popular game or sport that your parents or grandparents played when they were young.  If possible, get some friends together and play the game.

6. Begin a diary or journal.  Write in it at least once a week.  Young children can draw pictures.

7. Look at photograph albums with an older relative.  Have them identify the people in the photos.  If the identities are not marked on the photos, carefully write the name on the back with a soft lead pencil or archival quality pen.

8. Keep a scrapbook of report cards, awards, letters, and honors you have received.

9. Write about your favorite holiday memories in your journal.

10. Make a list of your favorite holiday foods.  Gather the recipes for them and write the recipes in your journal or include them in your scrapbook.

11. Visit a genealogical research facility.

12. **Learn about an ancestor’s occupation.  If possible, visit a place where you can see the occupation demonstrated.

13. Honor a deceased ancestor on his or her birthday.  Share stories and information about their life.  Prepare foods he or she might have eaten.

14. **Visit a historic home in your area.  Ask the guide questions about how someone your age would have lived during the time the home was first lived in.

15. **Find out what your name means and why your parents chose it.

16. **On a map of the world or your country, place a sticker on each city or area in which your ancestors lived.

17. Prepare a list of questions you might like to ask an older relative or friend to learn about their life.

18. Learn about heraldry.  Design and create a personal or family Coat of Arms.

19. **Visit a cemetery.  With adult supervision, make crayon or pencil rubbings of inscriptions on the stones.

20. Learn about terms used in family history research.  Create a word search or crossword puzzle game. Try
www.puzzlemaker.com to make your puzzles.

21. **On a large driveway, playground or empty parking lot, use chalk to begin marking pedigree lines – starting with you.  See how far you can go in the space you have to work with.  When you are finished, count the lines.

22. **Draw a map of your neighborhood.  Show where you live, your school, the park, your best friend’s house, your favorite climbing tree, your school bus stop, etc.  Include the map in your journal or scrapbook.

23. Plan a family reunion.

24. Create a family newsletter and send it to your relatives.

25. Write to a relative and ask them to tell you a story about themselves.

26. Make a family calendar of all the birthdays and wedding anniversaries for everyone in the family.  Make copies and share them with your relatives. Make an online calendar at www.familylearn.com.

27. In your journal, write down what you do on an ordinary day.  Include everything you do from the time you get up in the morning to the time you go to bed at night.

28. **Ask your parents and grandparents if they own any family heirlooms.  Ask them to show them to you and explain the history behind them.

29. Using a tape recorder, ask older relatives to tell about themselves.

30. **Record your own family’s voices on a tape recorder.  Be sure to record the date.

31. Do you have a nickname? What about other members of your family?  Ask how they got their nicknames and write the stories in your journal or scrapbook.

32. Watch a travel video about a country your ancestors came from.  Many of these are available at the public library.

33. **Learn a song or dance from a country your ancestors came from.

34. Learn about your ancestor’s native language.  Get a dictionary for that language from the library and try to learn some words and phrases.

35. **Gather small photographs of yourself, your parents and both sets of grandparents.  Make a family tree of photographs, using yourself as the trunk.

36. Choose a few old family photographs to frame and display in your home. 

37. **Use a magnifying glass to look closely at old family photographs.  Look for hidden details such as what flowers were growing in the yard, license numbers on cars, the print pattern on a dress, etc.

38. Make a list of holiday, birthday, or everyday traditions in your family.  Choose one to write about in detail.  Include how and when the tradition started.

39. **Make a paper chain pedigree chart.  Include a paper link for each individual (chain will not be in a straight line).

40. Ask your grandparents to tell you what they remember about their grandparents.  Write down what they tell you.

41. **Physical traits can be passed down through generations.  Pick a trait that you have: eye color, freckles, hair color, hitchhiker’s thumb, good singing voice, long fingers, etc.  Map out several generations of your family on pedigree and family group records.  Note on the chart which relatives also share your physical trait.  Have young children make tally sheets of how many family members have blue eyes, how many have blonde hair, etc.

42. Do certain illnesses seem to run in your family? Chart the occurrences of certain illnesses as in 41 above.

43. Chart the talents of family members as in 41 above.

44. With the help of your parents, gather and look at original birth, marriage, and death documents you might have around your house.  Keep them all together and store them in a safe place.

45. If you do not have an original birth certificate for yourself, find out how to obtain one and then do so.

46. Names can often give clues to family relationships. Ask your grandparents about their names.  Why were they given their names?

47. Visit the homes, places of birth, or burial sites of some of your ancestors or find pictures of these places.

48. **Learn about traditional ethnic costumes of your ancestor’s country of origin.  Make a costume for yourself or for a doll.

49. Go to the library and check out some family history “how to” books suitable to your age level.  Ask the librarian for help if necessary.

50. **Over a hundred years ago, most families had more than 2 or 3 children.  It was uncommon for children to have their own bedroom, let alone their own bed.  With your parent’s permission, try to share a bed with your siblings for one night.  See how many minutes or hours you can last together!

51. Find out if there are any fiction books for your age level involving a family history theme.  Check some out and read them.

52. Ask your aunts and uncles to tell you stories about your parent’s childhood.

53. Tell and illustrate a funny family story in comic strip style.

54. Ask everyone in your family to write a short story about the same family event.  Have everyone read his or her story aloud.  Compare the stories.  Note how everyone remembers things differently.

55. **Visit a historical museum.  Pay particular attention to items your ancestors may have used.  Steer young children towards items a child his/her age might have used.

56. Obtain a newspaper for the day you were born.  Contact your public library or local newspaper publisher to find out how.

57. Obtain newspapers for the days your parents and grandparents were born.

58. Create a family cookbook.  Gather favorite family recipes from your grandparents, parents and other relatives.  Give copies of the completed cookbooks as gifts.

59. If your ancestors were American pioneers who traveled west in the 1800’s, play the computer game "Oregon Trail" to get a feel for what life on the trail might have been like.

60. If possible, ask your parents to take you to places they enjoyed as children.  Have them share their memories relating to each place.

61. Play with the math involved in your ancestry.  You had two parents.  Each of them had two parents.  Each grandparent had two parents.  How many direct ancestors might you have in 25 generations?

62. It is not unusual to find an ancestor’s name spelled differently in many different records.  Play with your name.  How many ways can you think of to spell it?

63. **In the book, "My Apron", author Eric Carle tells a story from his childhood in words and pictures.  Write about an event from your life and illustrate it.

64. **Many of your ancestors probably grew their own food.  With parental permission, plant a small garden and care for it.  Radishes are especially suitable for small children to plant.

65. **Avoid using electricity for an entire evening.  Using only candlelight, eat dinner, clean up afterwards, read and play games, and prepare for bed.  Your early ancestors lived this way.

66. Find out if your local DAR chapter or historical society has an essay contest.  Obtain a copy of the guidelines and prepare to enter the contest.

67. Learn how to use microfilm and microfiche readers at your local LDS Family History Center or Library.

68. Listen to or learn to sing or play songs that were popular when your parents or grandparents were younger.  Make a list of your current favorite songs.

69. Obtain a computer program to enter your family’s genealogy into a database.  A very good program, Personal Ancestral File (PAF), is available for free download at
www.familysearch.org.

70. A census is an official government count or list of all individuals that lived in a certain location at a certain time.  They can contain information such as name, age, gender, race, address, employment, place of birth, parent’s place of birth, education, etc.  Learn about census records.  Prepare a mock census entry for your family.

71. Use microfilm or other sources to obtain a copy of a census record containing the names of some of your ancestors.

72. Learn about toys your ancestor might have played with.  If possible, make one of them.

73. Church records such as those for baptism, marriage and burials are a valuable tool in family history research.  Ask a member of your clergy if you can look at the records of your church. Request to see your own membership record.

74. Your name becomes a part of an official record as soon as you are born and a birth certificate is filed with the government.  Make a list of official printed and electronic records in which your name might currently appear.

75. A ballad is a song that tells a story.  Using a story from your own life or an ancestor’s life, write a ballad.  Use a popular tune or compose your own.

76. **A flag uses colors, shapes and objects to symbolize beliefs and standards. Design and create a family flag.

77. Read a book that an ancestor may have read.  For example, books written by Horatio Alger were popular with youth, especially boys, in America in the late 1800’s.

78. Create a scrapbook about you and present it to a relative on a special occasion.

79. Learn about a historic event, such as a natural disaster, war, or economic disaster that may have effected one of your ancestors.

80. Everyone had an ancestor who lived through the Great Depression in the early 20th century.  Find out what your family members might have done to economize (spend less money) during this time.  Think of something you can do to help your family economize now.

81. Make a list of sayings that you hear your parents say often. Did their parents use them?  Find out where the sayings originated.

82. **Visit a store that specializes in coin collecting.  Ask the dealer to show you coins, currency and stamps your ancestors may have used.

83. **In earlier days, young girls learned to sew by stitching a sampler.  Learn about samplers and do your best at creating your own.  An alternative for young children might be to let them cross-stitch their name with large x’s onto a piece of fabric.

84. Read examples of personal and family histories written by others, such as the "Little House" book series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, or Helen Keller’s, "The Story of My Life."

85. **Ask a parent about the circumstances surrounding your birth.  Write down what they tell you.

86. Learn about timelines.  Create a timeline listing all the important events in your life.  Do the same for your parents and/or grandparents.

87. Learn about important world, national, and local events that took place during your lifetime, as well as your parents and grandparents.  Add these events to the timelines you created.  A good book resource to use is "The Timetables of History" by Bernard Grun.  Many timelines are available on the Internet also.

88. Create a new tradition.  Think of an event that is not usually commemorated in your family.  Plan and carry out a fun celebration in honor of that event.  Such events could include the day your pet joined the family, Halfway-Through-the-School-Year Day, or your semi-annual dentist visits.

89. Get in the habit of jotting down memories.  On a back page in your journal or in a separate notebook, jot down memories as they occur to you.  Make a quick entry of a line or two.  When you have time at a later date, you can choose one memory at a time, about which to write a more detailed account.

90. Keep a date calendar.  Save it when the year is over.  The events listed on your calendar can jog your memory later on.

91. Attend a historical reenactment.

92. Investigate the possibility of serving as a youth docent or guide at a local historic site.  Learn all you can about the site.

93. Attend an ethnic festival.

94. Arrange, or have your parents arrange, for your family to have a portrait taken by a photographer who specializes in vintage style, costumed photography.

95. Your ancestors most likely prepared their own food to store up for the winter months.  With an adult, prepare fruits or vegetables for canning or drying.  Help with the process all the way to the end result.

96. An obituary is a written tribute to an individual that is printed in a newspaper shortly after his or her death.  Ask your parents or grandparents to show you any saved obituaries they might have.  See what sort of personal or family information is contained in them.

97. Long ago, families made their own soap and candles.  Learn about the processes involved in making these products.  Find someone knowledgeable about making one or both.  Ask him or her to explain and/or demonstrate the process.

98. The Internet is a great source for finding others who are working on similar ancestral lines.  Try to identify another individual who is researching one of your ancestral lines.  With parental supervision explore query forums on the Internet.  Two such forums are at
www.genforum.com and www.familyhistory.com. Always get parental permission before registering at any Internet site.

99. Take pictures of or collect wallet size school portraits of your friends.  Write identification on the back of the photographs and include them in your scrapbook.  Tell about how you met each friend and special memories you have of them.

100. Create a family history game for your family to play together.  Give each family member a pedigree chart filled out with only names.  Or, create a large pedigree chart out of posterboard and mount on wall.  On 3x5 cards, write information about each ancestor appearing on the pedigree chart.  Have them try to match the information to the names on the chart. FamilyLearn has a fun activity for kids called the FamilyLearn Challenge. Kids can make quizzes about ancestors and email them to others. Visit FamilyLearn Challenge.

101. With your parent’s permission, choose a large wall, such as a stairwell or hallway and decorate it with family photographs, documents and heirlooms, old and new, and of various sizes.  Be sure the wall you choose does not receive direct sunlight or your photographs will fade quickly.

102. Using index cards, create a "Trivial Pursuit" type flashcard game for your family.   Write a question concerning an ancestor on one side of the card and the answer on the back.  Quiz your family.

103. Make a memory jar using a large clean jar such as those used for mayonnaise.  Decorate the lid.  Cut strips of paper about 1x4 inches.  As a memory comes to mind, jot down a quick notation about it on a strip of paper and place it in the jar.  When you have time, take a strip out of the jar and write a more detailed account of the memory and include it in your journal.

104. Using old photographs or library books, study hairstyles from an ancestor’s era.  Try to arrange your hair in one of the styles. Invite friends over to join in the activity.

105. Walk through your house and make note of different items that hold special memories for you.  Write about them in your journal.

106. Do you personally know one or more of your great-grandparents? Ask them to tell you anything they remember about their parents or grandparents.  You may be able to find out information about people who were born over 150 years ago by someone who personally knew them!

107. If you are a member of the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, find out what the requirements are for earning the
Genealogy Merit Badge or other family history related badges.  Complete the requirements for the badge(s).

108. Write a skit based on an event or events in your family history.  Perform the skit or make a family video movie using your skit for the screenplay.

109. Find out if your local library, historical society or genealogical society offers community education classes.  Register for a class and encourage another family member to attend with you.

110. If you have access to a computer scanner, scan family photographs into your computer.  Email copies of the photographs to relatives.

111. Learn how to electronically “repair” damaged photographs.  Using what you have learned, scan a damaged photograph into your computer and repair the image.

112. Our ancestors lived by the motto, “Waste not, want not.”  They repaired and reused items to get as much use as possible out of them.  Women adhered to this motto by making patchwork quilts from pieces of worn-out clothes or leftover fabric.  Even the smallest pieces were saved and used in quilts.  Ask a parent for some old clothes that you can cut up.  Learn how to make a full or doll sized patchwork quilt out of the clothes and scraps you have gathered.

113. Learn about calendars.  Obtain a perpetual calendar such as the one available at www.calendarhome.com and use it to find out the days of the week on which birthdays and other events from your family took place.

114. In the past it was common practice to inscribe gravestones with the deceased person’s age at the time of death.  Using the date of death and the age at death, family historians can calculate a date of birth.  Using a date calculator (available with some genealogy software or on the Internet at http://www.calendarhome.com/tyc/ or http://www.longislandgenealogy.com/birth.html ), calculate how old you are in years, months and days.

115. **Make a treasure chest.  Find a large box and decorate it.  Use it to store all your treasures that are too bulky to place in a scrapbook.

116. **If not against cemetery rules, plant flowers on an ancestor’s grave.  Spring growing crocus bulbs are good to plant in the fall because the flowers are finished blooming long before grass mowing time.

117. **For Halloween, dress up in a style of clothing one of your ancestors might have worn.

118. Have some fun with family snapshots.  Write funny captions and place them in your photo album under the photographs.

119. Have you ever been mentioned in a newspaper article?  Newspapers can become yellowed and brittle over time.  Photocopy your special newspaper articles onto acid-free paper and place them in your scrapbook.  Don’t forget to include the title and date of the paper.

120. Throw a party!  Find out about fun activities that were common 100 or more years ago.  Invite your friends to come and have fun doing things like pulling taffy, making silhouettes or square dancing.

121. **Many of your ancestors made their own butter.  To make your own butter, fill a baby food jar or other small jar about half full with whipping cream.  Add a pinch of salt if desired and then screw the lid on tight.  Shake the jar until a ball of butter forms. Pour off the liquid and enjoy your homemade butter.

122. Make a family or individual time capsule, preferably using a waterproof container.  Include newspapers, photographs, coins, stamps, school papers, movie ticket stubs, etc.  Include a letter containing family and personal goals for the future.  Write the current date on the box as well as the date on which it will be opened.  Seal it shut and place it in a safe place.

123. **If possible take photographs of all the homes you have lived in.  If photographs are not possible, draw, paint or build models of your homes.  Note the address of the home on your photograph, art or model.  Young children will enjoy building or drawing their own house or a grandparent’s house.

124. Explore genealogy databases available on the Internet.  Search for your own ancestors on the sites.  Two good sites are www.familysearch.org and www.ancestry.com (the latter is a pay site and you may need to go to a genealogy library to access it).

125. Learn what life was like for youth in earlier times.  Read books in the "American Girl" or "My Name is America" series.

126. Write a poem about how you feel about your family history or about special memories of a parent or grandparent.

127. Many old documents and letters are written in handwriting that is difficult to read.  Transcribe a document or letter by rewriting or typing it word for word, giving yourself a copy that is easier to read.

128. Make lists.  Lists are a quick easy way to add to your personal history.  Make lists of your favorite foods, least favorite foods, schools you attended, favorite TV shows, favorite books, etc.  Be sure to date the lists and add them to your journal or scrapbook.

129. **Using hard drying clay, create a “tombstone.”  After shaping the clay, use a sharp pencil or toothpick to inscribe the “tombstone” with your name and date of birth, or anything else you would like (be sure that no rough pieces of clay are sticking up).  Let the clay harden.  If there are rough pieces of dried clay sticking up around the letters, you will need to lightly sand them down.  Place a sheet of paper over the engraving and rub with a crayon or pencil.  The inscription will appear on the paper.  As an alternative you can use a bar of soap.

130. **Make clothespin dolls to represent each ancestor on your four-generation pedigree chart.  Create a pedigree chart out of poster board and mount each ancestor’s doll in the appropriate place.

131. Find out how and where your parents, grandparents or aunts and uncles met.  Write the stories down in your journal.  Give them a copy of the story you wrote.

132. **Make a place mat using photographs of family members.  Arrange the photos on a large piece of construction paper or card stock and glue in place.  Laminate or cover the mat on both sides with clear contact paper.

133. **Bake gingerbread cookies using boy and girl cookie cutters.  Decorate them with frosting and/or small treats to resemble your family members.  Using frosting, “glue” the cookies to a large tray or poster in a family tree pattern.

134. The National Genealogical Society (NGS) offers a full-color comic book for children. This book, “Hunting for Your Heritage,” is an adventure story that teaches young people about family history research in a fun and colorful way. The books are available for a nominal price through NGS at
www.ngsgenealogy.org

135. Many children in late 19th century America used “McGuffey Eclectic Readers” as school textbooks. Replica reprints of these books are available at many public libraries. Check out a McGuffey Reader for your age level and do some of the exercises.

136. Did your ancestor come to America between the years 1892 and 1924? If so, they probably came through the port of New York and were processed at Ellis Island. Visit
www.ellisislandrecords.org and try to find your ancestor on a passenger list. After you find your ancestor, find a photograph of the ship on which they sailed to America.

137. A deed is a document that records the transfer of property. Today surveyors make precise measurements of land location and boundaries and record the precise measurements on the deed. However, in the past it was common to measure and describe land boundaries based on land features such as trees, creeks, rocks, etc. Using a compass and a stick or “rod” of predetermined length, measure your backyard, wherever possible using the physical features of your yard to describe it. Write down your description and measurements as you go.

138. Take a carriage ride and experience a type of transportation your ancestors used over 100 years ago.

139. Assist your parents in arranging for a short train trip to experience a type of transportation your ancestors may have used over 100 years ago.

140. **Make a mobile using photographs of family members and/or family heirlooms. Use photocopies of the photographs and store the originals in a safe place.

141. Attend a monthly meeting of your local genealogical or historical society.

142. Create a family on-line scrapbook. Some web sites, such as www.familylearn.com and ComeHome.net both offer free web scrapbook space. There are also web sites, such as
www.myfamily.com , which will instruct you in creating and posting your family scrapbook with a paid subscription.

143. Create a “We Were There” book. Ask family members where and what they were doing when a specific historical event took place. Record their responses as well as memories about their emotions at the time of the event.

144. **Find pictures of the national flags of your ancestor’s homelands. Make a decorative wall hanging incorporating the flags. If desired, inscribe the names of immigrant ancestors on the flags. Young children can draw and color the flags.

145. Find out how to obtain actual national flags for the nations your ancestors came from. If desired, purchase a flag to display in your home.

146. Lead your family in creating a family history quilt. Have each person design and create a quilt square which celebrates their interests and personalities. Help each person decide on a technique suited to his or her level of ability. Sew the blocks together and tie or quilt the layers together.

147. Go to a cemetery and help maintain family graves by pulling weeds, trimming grass and cleaning stones if necessary (ask at the cemetery office about their preferred method for cleaning the stones).

148. Purchase a collage photo frame. Choose an assortment of family holiday photographs covering a span of years. Mount the photographs in the collage frame and display for the holiday. Change the photographs for each holiday.

149. Plant a symbolic family tree in your yard. Get input from family members and a tree nursery concerning the variety of tree to plant.

150. Are you the first person to live in your home? If not, try to discover your home’s history. With adult supervision, search the main plumbing pipes and/or electrical circuit box for original home inspection stickers. The date on the sticker will tell you when your home was built. Ask your parents whom they bought it from. Ask to see the sales documents for clues concerning from whom the previous owner purchased the home. Write down the legal property description found on the sale contract and go to your county courthouse. With the description, ask a clerk to help you learn more about previous property owners.

151. Encourage your family to take a family history vacation. Take part in mapping and planning the trip. Include as many of your ancestral homes as possible.

152. In the past, most families owned a family Bible. Most Bibles contained blank pages on which to record important family events – births, marriages and deaths. This Bible was generally passed down through the generations. Ask your parents and grandparents if they know of the existence of a family Bible. Ask to view it, try to locate it or, if none exists, start recording important dates in the Bible your family owns now.

153. Make your family a holiday scrapbook. Include holiday newsletters your family has received or sent, photographs, holiday recipes and stories detailing the favorite holiday memories of family members. Display it in a prominent place during the holiday so it can be enjoyed by all.

154. Long before the advent of the interstate highway system, people were trying to find the easiest way to get from here to there. A move to a new location might have included wagon trails, rail lines and water routes. Learn about early migration routes and methods of travel. Try to locate early maps of the area through which your ancestors traveled. Many modern roads were in existence long ago. For example much of easternmost US Interstate 70 follows the route of the original National Road which was built in the early 1800’s. On a modern day map, trace the route your ancestors most likely traveled.

155. **Make the ultimate family portrait. Photocopy family portraits, new and old, enlarging or reducing as necessary. Cut the background off from around the figures. Draw a new background on a large piece of paper or poster board. Group and paste the figures onto the new background. If you have some face only portraits, draw bodies for them. Be sure to portray them in costumes of the period.

156. Scan old family photos into your computer and use them to create a background wallpaper for your computer. The background for this web page was created using Microsoft's Photo Editor and Paint programs.

157. Make a family heritage T-shirt using the tools listed in #156 above. After creating the design you want to use, purchase iron-on transfer material which is designed to be used in computer printers. Print out your t-shirt design, iron it on and wear it proudly.

158. At one time it was popular to "hand-tint" black and white or sepia toned portraits to add color and interest to the photo. Photocopy an old black and white photograph of an ancestor. Using colored pencils, add skin tones, eye color or more to the photocopy. Do not color the original photograph!

159. Surnames, or last names, came into existence to help distinguish between individuals with the same given name. For example, a village might have had many men named “John.” One method of distinguishing between these Johns would have been to refer to them by who their father was. Villages might have a John, son of John; John, son of Peter; John, son of Elroy; and John, son of William. This is why we now have surnames such as Johnson, Peterson, McElroy, and Fitzwilliam. This type of naming style is called “Patronymics” and accounts for about 30% of surnames in the United States. Every culture contains patronymic surnames. Look at the surnames in your family tree. How many of your surnames appear to be patronymically based names?

160. Another method of distinguishing between all the different Johns would have been to refer to them by their occupation. A village might have had John the baker, John the miller, John the farmer, John who delivered letters and John the blacksmith. This is why we now have surnames such as Baker, Miller, Farmer, Letterman, and Smith. Look at the surnames in your family tree. How many of these surnames appear to be occupation based names? Names that end in –er or –man quiet often indicate an occupation. You may have to use a language dictionary if your surname comes from a non-English speaking country.

161. Yet another way of assigning surnames was based on where a person lived. John from London, Jean from Paris, Johan from Berlin and Sean from Glasgow may very well have ended up with their city of origin as a surname. But most place surnames are based on some sort of topographical feature, natural or manmade, that was in or near the place where the surname originated. This style of naming is called “Toponymics.” A village or area might have a John who lived by the river, John who lived in the oak woods, John who lived on the hill, next to the church, and John who lived near the gate by the apple orchard. This is why we have surnames such as Rivers, Woods, Oaks, Church, Churchill and Applegate. Look at the surnames in your family tree. How many of these surnames appear to be topographically based names? Refer to a foreign language dictionary if necessary.

162. Other surnames were based on a particular physical or character trait that an individual possessed. A village full of Johns might have one that is short, one that is thin, one that has brown hair, one that is brave, one with a good singing voice, one that is wealthy, one that is old, one that is young, one that is faithful. This is why we now have surnames such as Short, Thinnes, Brown, Stout, Singer, Hardy, Rich, Olds, Young, Truman, Goodfellow, etc. Look at the surnames in your family tree. How many of these surnames appear to be descriptive names? Refer to a foreign language dictionary if necessary.

163. Get together with an older relative and fill out some "Then and Now" worksheets. The
GrandmaConnection website provides many printable worksheets as well a wealth of other intergenerational activities and projects.

164. Would your given name be the same if you lived in a non-English speaking country? For example, the English name John is known as Juan in Spanish speaking countries, Johann in Germany, Sean or Ian in Ireland and Scotland, Jean in France, Ivan in Russia and Giovanni in Italy. Can you find other ethnic versions of “John”? What about your own name?

165. It was and is common for people to name their estate, farm, ranch, and, less commonly, their house or apartment. The name may have to do with the family's name or with the location or geographic features of the property or home. Ask your parents or grandparents if they are aware of any names attached to their ancestral homes. Brainstorm possible names for the home you live in now.


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Copyright © 2002 Linda Mahood Morgan, All Rights Reserved.

Permission is granted for individuals to use this list of family history activities for home, church and classroom use, as well as home schooling, and school projects. This list of ideas may not be used for resale or commercial purposes. All printed copies of the information presented on this web site must contain the above copyright notice.