Growing up in Utah, I remember my Grandpa Henderson, my dad’s dad, telling me that his mother had a Scottish brogue. At first, I thought he was talking about a small dog, like an Irish terrier.
“What the heck is a brogue?” I asked my mom later that night.
“A brogue is an accent. Your great-grandma was from Scotland.”
Sadly, by the time I had the chance to visit the country of my ancestors, Grandpa Henderson had died.
What I really wish is that I’d asked my grandpa more questions about his family and what he remembered about his own mother’s stories about her homeland. What was day-to-day life like? What did she do for fun? What was it like to start a new life in America?Jen Henderson at Scafell Pike in Scotland
It’s the kind of personal knowledge that not even my dad can tell me, though he has shared with me what he knows. Over the years I’ve pieced together my family’s story, which threads through hundreds of years and more than a dozen countries. I even discovered I’m related to British royalty!
Five Ways to Learn about and Preserve Your Family History
- Interview Your Dad and/or Grandpa.
Father’s Day (or a family reunion) is the perfect time to pay particular attention to the men in your family. Help your kids brainstorm a list of questions. What was it like when grandpa was growing up? What was his favorite toy? An important memory? His best friend? Consider videotaping the conversation so you can have a visual record of your loved one’s voice and personality.
- Do Some Research Online Together.
Plug in your dad’s last name in free popular search engines, such as Ancestry.com, RootsWeb.com, or FamilySearch.org and use what you learn to create a family tree with your relatives’ names, countries of origin and other fun facts.
- Read, Listen, Watch.
Check out books or videos about the countries connected to your family history and have kids explore them with dad or grandpa. What interesting facts did you learn? Where would you want to visit, if you could?You can even use Google Earth on the computer to take a “virtual” vacation to those places!
- Recreate a Family Story.
Identify an interesting historical event that took place during an ancestor’s lifetime and use questions to help bring that person to life.Was she a nurse during a war? What would she have seen or heard? Was he an artist during a revolution? What might he have painted? Encourage your kids to write a story or create artwork based on the event and share it with the family.
- Host a Family Culture Day.
August 1 is American Family Day, so why not create a new family tradition that incorporates what you’ve discovered? Cook a dish native to an ancestor’s country or play a game popular during that person’s life. In my house, we make a British breakfast—beans on toast, fried eggs, sausage, skillet mushrooms, sliced tomato, and of course, tea—that celebrates both my and my husband’s joint heritage.
So, what will you do this Father’s Day to learn more about your family history?