Many times family history is thought of as an activity for those who have retired. When we picture a genealogist we often have in our minds the elderly aunt who is surrounded by books, photos, pedigree charts, and other family history documents. While it is true that family history is a growing hobby of retired individuals, the demographic of those participating in family history is changing.
As family history has moved into the digital world, and particularly as more website have embraced social media, the number of youth involved in family history has been steadily rising. At the last general conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder David A. Bednar spoke to the youth of the Church about becoming involved in family history. He said, “With the technology capability you young people have, you were prepared for this day.” The Church has set up a website for the youth to learn family history. This is only one of the latest offerings for youth in family history. FamilyLink has been offering a Facebook application for some time to connect family members. NGS has been sponsoring a youth focused training at their conference for the last few years. There have been inner city programs helping youth to gain self-esteem and understand from where they came for many years as well. These programs have had a profound effect of some of those who participated. The scouting program has a genealogical merit badge that has helped thousands of youth connect with their ancestors.
There are many opportunities for youth to become involved. The skills that the younger generation possesses are incredibly helpful as family history moves to digital. One way to help youth begin is to have them take some five minute challenges. FamilySearch offers a set of five minute challenges at their site on YouTube at http://YouTube.com/FamilySearch . These five minute challenges help the youth connect with their ancestors in small bite sized chunks of time. Some youth groups have found enjoyment in indexing. Groups of youth have worked together to accomplish an indexing goal and have sometimes competed with other groups to see who can index the most records.
Engaging in traditional research is certainly not out of the reach of the youth. While all may not enjoy the hunt for ancestors in records there are likely many who will. Lastly, there are significant opportunities for service from the youth. Youth groups have visited assisted living centers and helped those who are less comfortable with using technology to learn about their ancestors and find records online. They have also helped enter information online.
One of the most rewarding experiences I have found with youth is to have them interview their parents or grandparents about their lives. They will learn many things about their ancestors and can provide a treasure of stories and life experiences for other members of the family that might otherwise be lost.
These are only a few of the ways that youth can become involved. Whether it is your own children, or a youth group for which you have responsibility consider helping the youth learn a little more about themselves by discovering their ancestors or helping others to do so. You will find that the effort will pay dividends with the youth far into the future.