Our ancestors are more than just names. Their journeys have made us and our children who we are today. Connecting with our ancestry reminds us of this.
I absolutely love hearing stories about my family. From the sweet stories of how my grandparents met, to all of their silly and unbelievable memories (my grandfather recalls that he and his friends used to grab onto the back of cars in the winter and “slide” along with cars over the snow… yikes!). I have often wondered how disconnected today’s children may be from such stories, and I am hopeful to raise my children right along with them.
There are many ways to remember and honor your family’s ancestry. The fact that September is National Grandparent Month makes it an excellent time to do so!
1. Conduct an Interview
Luckily, my family and I got to visit with both sets of my grandparents during our recent travels. I saw this as the perfect opportunity for my son to get to know his Great Papas and Great Grandmas. Before we left town, I told him a little about his great grandparents and asked him to think of questions he would like to ask them. This alone was incredibly adorable (oh to have the imagination of a three-year old again!).
My son was actually very excited about this little project and was happy to pose the questions to his great grandparents. The questions created a lot of conversation and it was beautiful to witness the sweet exchanges between them. Most of the questions quizzed my grandparents about a few of their “favorite things,” while others required childlike reflection (“do wishes have magic?”). My son came up with all of the questions except for one—-I encouraged he invite them to share a favorite memory.
Related: In Defense of Grandparents
This activity could truly be done with older children too, and questions posed to any family member that you wish to introduce them to.
2. Make a Family Tree
After doing a little research, make your own family tree with the kiddos at arts and crafts time! Make the tree extra special by adding your child’s or relative’s own ink fingerprints on the branches next to the names of your loved ones.
Family trees can be more abstract as well. One of our upcoming projects will be to paint the names of our loved ones on stones to place around our backyard pond.
3. Prepare a Family Recipe
Recipes passed down from generation to generation are a special treat. I am a true believer that the foods of our ancestors truly nourish us, as they are prepared with love and memories. My husband’s grandmother made pancakes for her family of 8 every Saturday morning. My little family and I plan to spend an upcoming Saturday making “Nana’s” pancake recipe and chatting with my husband’s mother all about her.
4. Tell a Story (or Write One)
Ask your parents, grandparents, or great grandparents to share a story about their childhood with you. You can use this story to share with your own children (perhaps with some added funny details and pictures).
My grandparents on my father’s side each wrote their own life story. I have loved reading about their memories and plan to share them with my son. This may be something that you wish to consider working on for your descendants!
5. Take A Road Trip
If not too far, load up the car and drive to visit the birth places of your ancestors. Collect trinkets or postcards from your journey and be sure to take plenty of photos. Even better, recreate an old family photo on site!
6. Honor a Loved One with Kindness
Select an ancestor to honor, perhaps with a good deed or small kindness. You could plant a tree (maybe a favorite of your ancestor’s), write a poem, or get involved with a positive cause that you or your loved one believed in. The possibilities are endless! Consider making this honorary gift a family tradition.
I feel lucky to now be called upon a journey to remember my ancestors. Knowing them is an opportunity to learn about myself. Even greater, it’s an opportunity to begin to heal any ancestral wounds for my family and our ancestors to come.