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In this article:
Books About Genealogy and Family Trees
Looking for a little help with family history detective work? These books will answer your questions, offer suggestions for where to find information, help you interview relatives, tell stories about other kids who’ve made family trees, and more.
Ancestor Hunt: Finding Your Family Online by Nancy Shepherdson (Franklin Watts)
Climbing Your Family Tree: Online and Offline Genealogy for Kids by Ira Wolfman (Workman Publishing)
Evie Finds Her Family Tree by Ashley B. Ransburg (Indiana Historical Society Press): Written for grade school children, Evie Finds Her Family Tree is a delightful story that puts a new spin on teaching children about family history. The book doesn’t concentrate on names, dates and places; instead, we follow Evie on her quest to find her family tree in her yard. The holly reminds Evie of her dad, the magnolia smells like her mother’s perfume, the oak sparks memories of her grandpa, and the maple reminds her of her sister. In this uncomplicated introduction to genealogy, Evie discovers unique individuals in her family tree. And although the message is simplistic, it’s powerful, and will surely trigger questions from and conversations with youngsters about their family tree. The book also includes a family tree wall chart you can fill out with your child.
Family History: A DK First Activity Pack by Chris and Melanie Rice (DK Publishing)
The Family Tree Detective: Cracking the Case of Your Family’s Story by Ann Douglas (Firefly Books)
The Great Ancestor Hunt: The Fun of Finding Out Who You Are by Lila Perl Yerkow (Clarion Books)
Genealogy Just for Kids! by Sherrie A. Styx (Styx Enterprises)
Kids and Grandparents: An Activity Book by Ann Love and Jane Drake (Kids Can Press)
The Kids’ Family Tree Book by Caroline Leavitt (Sterling)
Me and My Family Tree by Joan Sweeney (Dragonfly)
My Family Tree Workbook: Genealogy for Beginners by Rosemary Chorzempa (Dover Publications)
My Grandmother and Me (Kids Can Press): Fill-in memory scrapbook; grandfather, mother and father editions are also available.
My Great-great-great-great-great-grandfather… Was a Warrior! by Margherita Sgarlata (Lobster Press): Geared toward children ages 3 to 8, this book tells the tale of Mark, a young boy who’s visited one morning by his fifth-great-grandfather, a Viking warrior. This Viking ancestor accompanies Mark to school, and Mark learns that his own brains and his brawn — even his talent for drawing — are much like his relative’s. The colorful illustrations, as well as the cleverly woven story, are sure to capture youngsters’ attention.
One Tiny Twig by Dan Rhema (Mesquite Tree Press): On Emily Twig’s 14th birthday, she receives a family heirloom and a mystery to solve: Where did her ancestor Twig come from? With help from her grandfather, Emily learns how to use problem-solving skills to follow each clue as it unfolds in records. Emily first finds her ancestors in the cemetery and then in census records, where she learns the Twigs emigrated from England. From there, Emily discovers her family came through Ellis Island in 1892, the year the station opened its doors to immigrants. For a picture book, this story’s content is relatively sophisticated; it’s geared toward children ages 9 to 12.
Roots for Kids: A Genealogy Guide for Young People by Susan Provost Beller (Genealogical Publishing Co.): After you’ve piqued your youngster’s curiosity about family history, move on to Roots for Kids. Although this book is based on a 12-week course the author designed for her fourth-grade students, its skill level makes it suitable even for tweens and teens. Each chapter presents a 45-minute session for classroom or home use (many include homework assignments). After a brief introduction to genealogy, the author covers oral history interviewing and basic genealogical records, such as censuses and vital records. Beller also recommends taking children on trips to the town or county clerk’s office, libraries and historical societies, and gives an overview of state and national records. An appendix provides blank family tree charts and forms.
Through the Eyes of Your Ancestors by Maureen A. Taylor (Houghton Mifflin)
Oryx American Family Tree Series (Oryx Press): Genealogical guides for students, covering 12 ethnic ancestries.
Who’s Who in My Family? by Loreen Leedy (Holiday House)
Books About the Past
Did your ancestors sail across the ocean to America? Travel across the prairies in a covered wagon? Fight in the Civil War? Learn what your ancestors’ lives were like in these books.
Across America on an Emigrant Train by Jim Murphy (Clarion Books)
The American Girls Collection (Pleasant Co.): The adventures of seven “American Girls” and their families illustrate 19th- and 20th-century history.
Children of the Gold Rush by Jane G. Haigh and Claire Rudolph Murphy (Roberts Rinehart Publishing)
The Civil War for Kids: A History with 21 Activities by Janis Herbert (Chicago Review Press)
Daily Life in a Covered Wagon by Paul Erickson (Puffin Books)
…If You Lived in Colonial Times by Ann McGovern (Scholastic)
…If You Traveled on the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine (Scholastic)
…If Your Name Was Changed at Ellis Island by Ellen Levine (Scholastic)
Inside Laura’s Little House: The Little House on the Prairie Treasury by Carolyn Strom Collins and Christina Wyss Eriksson (HarperCollins)
Picture the American Past series (Lerner Publications): Describes kids’ experiences on orphan trains, at Indian boarding schools, on the World War II home front and during the Civil Rights era
Books About Culture and Heritage
People from all kinds of places and cultural backgrounds make up America. In these books, you can learn about your own family’s heritage.
American Origins series (Avalon Travel Publishing): Traces the “roots” of Chinese, English, French, Germans, Irish, Italians, Japanese and Poles in the United States
Annushka’s Voyage by Edith Tarbescu (Clarion Books)
The Peoples of North America series (Chelsea House, out of print): Books detailing the history, culture and achievements of nearly 50 ethnic groups, from The Afro-Americans to The Hungarian Americans to The West Indian Americans
Coming To America: The Story Of Immigration by Betsy Maestro (Scholastic Press)
Cultures of America series (Benchmark Books, out of print): Books on American ethnic groups, including African, Chinese, Cuban, French, Greek, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Jewish, Korean, Lebanese, Mexican, Polish and Puerto Rican
I Was Dreaming to Come to America: Memories from the Ellis Island Oral History Project by Veronica Lawlor (Puffin)
American Family Albums series (Oxford University Press): Historical “scrapbooks” of African, Chinese, German, Irish, Italian, Jewish, Mexican and Scandinavian immigrants in America
Books About Genealogy Activities for Parents and Educators
Genealogy is a great way to get kids excited about history and help them connect with relatives. Here are books especially for parents and teachers who are working with kids on family history-related projects.
Creating Junior Genealogists: Tips and Activities for Family History Fun by Karen Frisch (Ancestry Publishing)
Kids and Kin: The Family History Research Vacation That Involves Kids by Patricia Suter and Corinne P. Earnest (R.D. Earnest Associates, out of print)
Links to the Past Through Genealogy: Curriculum Activities for the Classroom by Midge Frazel (Linworth Learning)
Turning Little Hearts : Over 80 Activities to Connect Children with their Ancestors by Jonah and Charlotte Barnes (Cedar Fort, Inc.)
Your Travel Guide to Colonial America by Nancy Day (Lerner Publications)
Youth in Family History by Starr Hailey Campbell (Creative Continuum): Ready to get the next generation interested and involved in your family tree? You’ve come to the right place. Campbell’s easy-to-read and attractively illustrated guide will help you prod your kids or grandkids with innovative activities. The author addresses the challenges you’ll face (“It’s boring, Grandma Lucy!”) and shows you how to overcome them. Campbell uses social history and tangible items such as family heirlooms and cookbooks — instead of dry names and dates — to teach about genealogy. She provides lessons on how to preserve family memories as well. If you’ve been searching for ways to get your young relatives involved in genealogy, this book will give you the inspiration and the ideas to do it.
Summaries written by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack, from the October 2006 issue of Family Tree Magazine.
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