Future genealogists are born every day. Some may not come to the field until they are older because they just stumbled upon their roots. Others will be intrigued from the moment they can ask questions and will look to the family story tellers for guidance and help. It is up to all of us to plant these seeds early. This fact I am a firm believer in.
Let me be honest for a minute. There are genealogy societies literally dying out. I have heard older genealogists bemoan that fact that young kids just do not want to do genealogy. No one listens to the older generation when they want to share. Youth are too self-involved to do this. And on and on and on. These statements are wrong, and I have been told those statements neumerous times. There are youth and younger adults who DO want to. The problem is the older generation many times does not know how to communicate with them.
The under 50 demographic is growing by leaps and bounds, but there is one major problem. Most of the time they are not given the chance to be involved or participate. There is a bit of reverse age discrimination going on in the genealogy world you could say. Now, if you want to attract younger adults to this world you really do it the same way you would attract anyone else. My word of advice to you is to not make assumptions about anyone based on their age, embrace any potential new members to your circle, and let them assume roles of leadership. Blooming where you are planted is an amazing thing.
Or think on this one. How many times have you attended a presentation where the person at the podium droned on and on and on? If it was at a large conference right after lunch I bet you were struggling to keep your eyes open! Now, put yourself in a ssituation where you don’t understand half the words or concepts that are said to you. How quickly would you tune the person out?
The key to starting an appreciation or love of something is to get the person hooked. Think about these things if you want to get someone close to you involved:
· What are their interests? Do they like sports, history, reading, horses, etc?
· Do they have a favorite time period? Do they love learning about the Renaissance, WWII, Old West, etc?
· Is there a type of story that fascinates them? Do they like biographies, fiction, poems, etc?
· How do they learn? Do they need to see it, read it, hear it, etc?
Knowing the interests of the person in question can make this a lot simpler. Take your answers from the questions above and see if you have any ancestors that fall into those categories. Do you have an author, scientist, athlete, or soldier in the family? If one of those ancestors shares a common trait with them casually throw it out into a conversation. Essentially you are putting out ancestor bait and then reeling them in with the story.
Of course what you say and how you will say it should depend on their ages. As they get older you can add other facts into their continued curiosity about those earlier stories. When they are a teen or young adult you can then transition into conversations surrounding social history, records, or other bits of information that only a mature person would understand about the nitty gritty details of the times.
Teaching, exploring and discovering is easier to do when you live with the youth you are trying to teach your family history to. If you are not the parent but another relative who only sees them every so often realize that you must seize every opportunity present to show them this amazing world. The easiest way is through road trips.
I take every opportunity to point out to my kids something that one of our ancestors may have lived through, experienced, seen, or done every chance I get when we are on a family road trip. Drawing that connection between their family and a historical event brings an added layer to the picture. For many that is all that was missing to make either their ancestor more real to them.
Also, don’t be afraid to bring young adults and kids to genealogy conferences, meetings, or lectures. I also do this every chance I get with mine. Each time I am surprised at what they get out of the lectures and the experience.
Yes, I have received nasty looks and unfavorable comments. Yes, I ignore them because thankfully my kids tend to know how to behave in public. However, and this is something as the responsible adult you have to know, I realize when they are done and remove them from the area. When a tired or hungry kid gets cranky I need to be the adult and take care of the situation.
There are not a lot of resources out there for people with children who are interested in genealogy. Many of the books are written with the focus being on adults getting thier kids/grandkids hooked. What if they are hooked? We need more resources for those kids who want to know more about genealogy but who have adults in their lives that just don’t get it. I know they are out there, somewhere.
Just remember, if you have a child or young adult who is interested in learning more about their heritage encourage them and lead them in the right directions. Don’t discourage them. Stand up for them to other adults who might. With more and more people joining in the genealogy search the ages are dropping and we don’t want to literally run away our future.