In 2001, Congress declared October as Family History Month. This annual observance is a time for us to explore our past and preserve our history for future generations. Here are some ideas on how to get your family involved and excited for Family History Month!
A good place to start is by having children interview grandparents, aunts, uncles and other family members. Work with your child to prepare a list of questions and try to avoid those that elicit simple yes or no responses. Think of these questions as conversation starters. There are no right or wrong answers, and if the conversation goes off topic, that’s OK. Be sure to have paper and a pen available to write down responses—or record the responses to make an oral history.
Here are a few questions to get you started.
- When and where were you born?
- What were your parents’ names?
- What is your happiest memory of your father? Your mother?
- What is the most important lesson your parents taught you?
- Where did you grow up? What was it like there?
- What did you do for fun as a child?
- How did you like school?
- What jobs have you had?
- What would be your recipe for happiness?
Creating a memory album is another great way to preserve your family’s legacy. You can include photos, letters, post cards and other memorabilia. Journaling helps personalize each page and creates context for entries. Taking this one step further, you can digitize your photographs and albums allowing you to easily share them with family who live far away.
Food is another great way to connect with others. So, dust off those old recipe cards that have been passed down for generations and try your hand at creating a dish that one of your family members is known for. During the meal, talk with your children about the dish and why it’s part of your family’s history. If you don’t have a favorite family dish, get together with your family and create one. Talk with your children about why this new dish best encompasses your family.
Researching your family tree can be exciting, but also frustrating. Luckily the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library is here to help! The public library’s Genealogy & History webpage, available at HCPLC.org/Genealogy, has a wide variety of online research tools to help you get started including local history resources and user guides. There’s even a free ancestral chart you can download to start recording your family tree. Ancestry Library Edition is a very popular genealogy resource, and it offers access to billions of records in census data, vital records, military records, directories, photos and family trees. Fold3 is another popular public library resource that focuses on military records of those who served and their families.
Discovering family roots, sharing traditions or even creating new ones are all ways to celebrate Family History Month together. For a list of children’s books exploring family trees and family history from the public library, visit https://bit.ly/HCPLCKidsFamily.
Originally Published in October 2021. All photos provided by Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library.