I’m just home from a very fun evening with a bunch of 16 and 17 year old boys. I was in charge of doing something “family history related” with them. The announcement text we sent out said “Young Men activity tonight! Playing Computer Games. Bring your phone.”
This afternoon I stopped by the LDS Distribution Center and picked up a packet of 25 Pedigree charts ($2.75) and several packets of Family Group Sheets (free). Or you can download free blank forms here: http://www.familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Research_Forms .
For the activity this evening, we met in a computer lab at a near-by school. If you don’t have access to a place like that, round up a lap top for each of the kids to use. If they have a smart phone, they could use that. When all the boys were in place, I took 3-4 minutes and showed them the Find-A-Grave website (findagrave.com) and explained how to use it (how to search for a name, how to find links to spouses and children, etc.). Then I gave each boy a pedigree chart and several family group sheets and explained how to fill them in. We told the boys they had 45 minutes to find as many relations as they were able. They were allowed to call or text a family member to get the name of a deceased relation or two to get them started. I told them to fill in the pedigree and a family group sheet for every family they could find (names only, unless they wanted to fill in more details). We had candy bars at the end as prizes for things like most names found, most unusual name found, most interesting photo of an ancestor, most amazing story found (one found a murdered relative), etc.
The boys had at it and were totally enthralled the entire 45 minutes. We had to keep telling them to stop when the time was up. The boy who’s parents only knew the name of one dead relation ended up finding the most names. All were excited to find photos of old bearded men and stern-looking great-grandmas. Many found histories and stories they knew nothing about. I kept hearing things like, “Hey! Listen to this!” Even the adult leaders participated and were thoroughly entertained and interested in their findings. Some had family members who weren’t yet in Find-A-Grave and at the end I explained how they might request a photo so they might be added in the future.
I also told them about another site called BillionGraves.com and the free app that allows you to upload cemetery headstone photos directly. There are no family links in BillionGraves, but the app makes it fun and easy to add photos of your family headstones. Right now, Find-A-Grave has 97 million memorials listed. BillionGraves also has a huge, growing data base, with hundreds of photos added every day. They are hoping to add 1 million new records by Memorial Day next month.
It was a fun, exciting activity. Who would have guessed a bunch of teenage boys would get excited about finding their Dead People? I would!