Up Your Family Tree and Down: Grandparents and Grandchildren

September 8, 2017 Deborah Wilbrink

Sharing Stories on Grandparents Day, September 10, 2017

Get closer to the roots of your family tree by collecting stories from grandparents, and sow seeds for the future with a family history book just for children! Talk to the elders in your family. Grandparents Day is September 10 this year, falling within Assisted Living Month. Grandparents appreciate good listeners, wherever they live. Collect stories, and create your family history book as a heritage treasure for your own grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Yes, for generations to come!

Consider making a family history storybook that grandparents and parents can read to the children and future children of your family. Herman and Patsy Hatfield-Lawson of Hendersonville, Tennessee, authored and invested in the family history book, The Story of Us: Becoming the Hatfield-Lawson Family. It featured stories and photographs from both of their families reaching into the 1800s. Many of the pictures were of children.

“You’re never too young to start learning family history!” was my thought, and I created a children’s book, The Lawsons Travel in Time, for their first grandson, who was two years old. There are pictures of ancestors as children, children at play, at school, at church. Since the book was for a two-year- old to grow with, there was very little text.

The stories were already captured in the adult version. With lots of photographs and cheery color, you, like the Lawson family, can tell children your family stories as the pages turn. This teaches the children to retell the family stories. It creates the concept of MY family history! A simple family tree of a few generations illustrates the concept. Get creative: put those family names under images of cabbages or storks for the children!

(To interest your teens in family history takes some additional tactics, addressed in a later blog of “Best Book Ever”.)

A few of the many tips from my book, Time to Tell Your Personal & Family History, will help:

1. Choose a comfortable place and an unhurried time. Make it easier to truly listen. Don’t hesitate to speak your heart: “I would love to spend some time just talking to you and listening to you. I want to know you better.”

2. Plan some topics that all generations will have in common. School days; music; dating; holiday dinners; learning to drive; pets; least favorite jobs; your first television or computer; historic events, family photographs … even those typical conflicts with parents!

3. Take turns telling the stories, and keep them short. If you learn about dental customs(!), favorite recipes, or how to buy a house, those are topics you can collect and ones that will prompt your own story about the subject. But elders first—listening and recording is your goal here.

For many of us, our grandparents were among our earliest teachers and caregivers. They have added immeasurably to the strength of our families, and with compassion and wisdom, they have enriched our lives with the stories of those who came before us.

–Grandparents Day Proclamation 2012, President Barack Obama

Best Book Ever
Best Book Ever - Brentwood Library
“The Best Book is Your Own Story.”
Deborah Wilbrink

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