Do you want your children or grandchildren to be inspired by their ancestors? Get them interested in family history with these activities to keep their hands, and imaginations busy at home!
1. Ask a family member to describe the very first house they lived in, then ask your child to draw each room. Encourage them to ask questions such as: ‘What colour were the curtains? Were they made of lace or another material? What was the kitchen like?‘ It’ll be a fun trip down memory lane and your child can get creative with the illustrations!
2. Research a military ancestor. Have you, or a family member shared stories of their Grandparents or Great Grandparents serving in the war? We have thousands of military records at Ancestry for them to explore. Search for your ancestors and read up on where they travelled to, and on which battlefields they fought. You can also download service records from the National Archives of Australia. Why not trace their journey on an atlas, whether it was to Gallipoli or the Western Front?
3. Explore the world of digitized newspapers at Newspapers.com or Trove. Read newspapers dating back to 1803, when the first newspaper, the Sydney Gazette, was published. You could search for your ancestors’ names or your local area to see what stories come back. And older kids could even help correct the digitised text!
4. Tell the story of somewhere in your area with an interesting history and search its history online. Did you know that Tamarama Beach in Sydney’s east once had a rollercoaster built over its sandy shores? Imagine that, being on a rollercoaster as the waves rolled in below!
5. Google the Indigenous name of your town or a street nearby to discover its meaning. For instance, ‘Dubbo’ is thought to come from the word ‘Thubbo’, possibly meaning ‘red earth’ in the local Wiradjuri language.
6. Help them create their own family history, through pencil and paper. Help them draw a simple family tree of the immediate family and grandparents. Perfect for a little one who loves drawing and colouring in, look for photos of each person, or ask them to draw everyone’s faces. They’ll have a giggle depicting everyone, while learning all about the family tree. Suggest your kids interview a family member about their life, including special memories, their wedding day, favourite food – anything that takes their fancy. Your child can then write up the story and it’ll be a memento for everyone to cherish.
7. Explore a collection of old family portraits. Ask your child to anaylse and compare the images – what can they see? Is the hairstyle, dress style, portrait style the same or different? What does this tell us about the era in which they lived? If you know the details on the portrait subjects, tell them a little about the person they see in each image.
8. Get the kids in the kitchen. Suggest they ask a grandparent, aunt or uncle for their favourite recipe and help them make it. Then your child can write up the recipe to keep.
9. Take a wander through a museum, online. The National Museum of Australia brings their stories to life with videos, collection interactives, a Google virtual tour and special online projects.
10. Have fun! The key piece of advice to helping inspire the next generation of historians!
This blog post was originally produced by Cassie Mercer in 2018 and has been adapted for republishing in 2020.
Cassie Mercer is an editor based in Sydney. She founded the award-winning magazine Inside History in 2010, creating a following of 60,000+ readers and working with Australia’s key cultural institutions to bring the nation’s history to life across Inside History’s multi-channel platforms. The history bug struck her when she discovered the story of her 5x great grandparents – in the late 1700s, one was a highwayman in Dublin and the other was the madam of a brothel, of the Lower Sort.