Like Randy Seaver, I’m running a little low on tombstone photos, but instead of looking for something to compare with Randy’s Star Wars-themed post, I’ll share a few experiences from my shift at the Wilmette FHC tonight.
Some Ways To Interest Teenagers in Genealogy
A group of about 9 young men aged 12-18 from a nearby LDS congregation came to visit our Family History Center this evening. We didn’t have a meticulously-rehearsed plan to make it a fun experience for them, but we did try a few things that worked. Here’s a list:
- We had lots of adults on hand: three FHC volunteers and two youth leaders. That allowed us to break the boys up into smaller groups and give them plenty of focused attention.
- The boys had received a modest “homework” assignment ahead of time to gather info from their family members. Only a few followed through, but those that did had a better experience as a result. The others were able to retrieve some info via cell phone.
- We did a minimum of talking at the beginning and let the boys get right into hands-on experiences quickly. Four sat down at PCs and began registering for New FamilySearch; the remaining five got a quick intro to microfilm resources, picked a film and learned how to put it on a reader.
- The boys looked bored when we told them about records, but when they started cranking through microfilm their interest level increased dramatically. There’s just something about records from hundreds of years ago that seems to excite curiosity.
- My wife had previously created a scavenger hunt listing fun questions that could be answered in the FHC with our guidance. An example: “Find Helen Keller in the 1900 MA Census. Who’s that boarding with her?” The boys each picked a different question to work on and seemed to rise to the challenges involved.
- Halfway through the 60-minute visit, we swapped groups so everyone got some one-on-one time at the computer with a consultant. Not everyone found a cool record online, but the ones that did enthusiastically shared their finds with the others.
- In a brief wrap-up, we thanked them for coming and told them they we’d love to help them make more progress in a future visit. We also suggested possible follow-up ideas to their leaders.
With “Kids Camps” planned at both NGS and the SCGS Jamboree this year, there are obviously plenty of good ideas out there for interesting teenagers in genealogy research. If you’d care to share, I’d love to hear your success stories!