Genetic Testing Child Ancestry

Tracing your family tree – both through a DNA test for ancestry and personal research — has become increasingly popular in recent years. Genealogy, which is the study of family ancestry and a family’s unique history, can be a way to learn about your roots and have fun with your children. Discovering that their ancestors were real people with exciting stories brings history to life for many children. Teaching children their heritage can also:

  • bridge the gap between generations
  • develop a child’s organizational and problem solving skills
  • develop a stronger feeling of family
  • encourage communication
  • start a child on the path of lifelong learning.

Uncovering Family Ancestry

Finding all the branches of your family tree can take a bit of detective work, and children will enjoy helping you uncover the clues. A great way to start is to interview living ancestors. You may want to have your child interview a grandparent or other older relative to find out about what life was like when he was a child, what part of the world he may have come from and who his ancestors were. Children often love conducting interviews with a tape recorder or video camera for an imaginary radio or TV program.

Your children can also take part in some other exciting ways to discover their ancestry:

  • Census records: These records will let you and your children know where ancestors were born, their occupations, where they lived and names of other family members.
  • Military records: If you ancestors served in the military, even as long ago as the Revolutionary War, you can learn about them through military records. Check draft cards for clues to your ancestor’s appearance – you will find their eye color, height and weight. Service records will let you know if your ancestor was injured or received honors, and the unit in which he or she served.
  • Old newspapers: Looking through birth, death and marriage notices can reveal information about your family tree. If you are lucky, you may also find family member mentioned in articles, ads or legal and social notices.

Clues from DNA

A DNA test for ancestry can provide even more clues about your family tree. Genetic tests can uncover the history of your family’s geographic and ethnic origins. Children can learn about both maternal and paternal history from the information contained in their genes:

  • Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA): mtDNA provides information about maternal ancestry. Both boys and girls carry mtDNA inherited from their mothers.
  • Y-Chromosomes: Y-DNA hosts genetic information passed from fathers to sons, and reveals paternal ancestry.

Your child’s DNA test results may contain some surprises about your family ancestry. You may discover that your family’s ethnic heritage is richer and more complex than you had ever imagined.

Teaching Children Their Heritage

Learning about ancestry and ethnic heritage presents wonderful opportunities to bond with your children. When you talk with your children about their ancestry, you can help them develop a sense of pride in their history. Here are some tips for getting the most from teaching children their heritage:

  • Encourage conversation and questions when talking about ancestry.
  • Music is a great way to enhance pride in your family tree. Try introducing your kids to songs from their ethnic background, or your family member’s pasts.
  • Share the history of your recent family members and historical ancestors through personal stories, books and movies.
  • Show children old photos of ancestors you may have, and point out family resemblances and geographic locations. Photos also show the many ways people lived during different time periods. Ask you children what they think of changing styles for clothing and hair.
  • Your children may enjoy drawing pictures or writing stories about ancestors and sharing them with you.

Resources

Capper ‘s. (2008). Feature: Get children involved in tracing family tree. Retrieved December 7, 2008, from the Capper’s Web site: http://www.cappers.com/Pasttimes/Feature-Get-children-involved-in-tracing-family-tree.aspx.

Kendrick, C. (2008). Talking about family history. Retrieved December 7, 2008, from the Family Education Web site: http://life.familyeducation.com/storytelling/family-traditions/29610.html.