How does your family tree grow?

Angela Verges

Angela Verges

by Angela Verges 

A child was born and a tree grew. By the time my son was old enough to walk, a new tree was planted in my grandfather’s front yard. The two events were not planned to happen together, but provided an interesting history.

The seedlings grew up with each other, the tree and my son. Until one day, my son had a history class in which he had to create a family tree. We discussed how a tree was planted the same year he was born. Our talk eventually led to actual facts about family history.

There were countless cousins, an armful of aunts and long lost legends to add to my sons’ family tree. There was no place on the tree for explanations/details such as: a great grandmother who played basketball, a grandmother who marched with Martin Luther King Junior, or a great uncle who was a town mayor.

Discovering relatives who had simple quirks was entertaining for my son. He once asked, “Mom why is Aunt Lou’s mustache so thick?” and “Why does Granny collect so many newspapers?”

thefivelostauntsofharrietbeanMost recently I read a chapter book where the main character discovered she had relatives she never knew about. In The Five Lost Aunts of Harriet Bean by Alexander McCall Smith, Harriet was nine years old before she learned she even had aunts (her dad’s sisters). Harriet described her dad as great at inventing things, but absent minded. He forgot to tell Harriet about his aunts.

Harriet’s dad explained how he and his sisters were separated when they had to sell their family farm. This led Harriet to ask more questions. She helped fine each one of her aunts and reveled in their oddities. Aunt Veronica always had super strength and was found working in a circus.

Aunt Japonica and Thessalonika were twins and they could read minds. Aunt Harmonica was a ventriloquist. All of the aunts were peculiar, but special in their own way, just like our real families. You’ll have to read the book to find out the challenges Harriet faced as she found each aunt.

If you’re looking for fun ways to teach your child about your family history, here are four ways that I found interesting:

  • Play family history games
  • Have your child video tape an interview with an older relative – your child could pretend to be a report and ask such as

-where did you grow up?

-what movies and songs did you like when you were growing up?

-what did you do for fun when you were a child?

  • Create personal histories – have kids keep a journal, create a scrapbook or write stories form their lives. Have older kids or teens take pictures of events and the photos for their scrapbook
  • Start a family newsletter

For more ideas check out the link at

There can be many branches on a family tree, discovering how each is connected provides a rich history.  How do you teach your child about family history?

2 Comments to “How does your family tree grow?”

  1. I’m super excited about this! I love this author; definitely one of my top five of all time. And I didn’t know about this book! Yea!

  2. Wendy,
    This was a fun book to read.

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