My interest in family history began when I was in high school. I was the kid who was always asking questions about relationships when we attended extended family gatherings and who would beg for the stories about the "old days." But, it wasn't until I was in college that I really started to collect documents, organize the information and pester relatives for interviews.
Genealogy is sometimes seen as a hobby for retirees. When I attended my first genealogy society meeting, I was the youngest person there by at least 40 years. In the past, there hasn't been much focus on encouraging and fostering an interest in genealogy among youths. Hopefully, those days are gone, and a new movement has begun to get youth involved in genealogy.
Like most subjects, children learn about genealogy from adults. The first encounter with the subject is usually from a relative or friend. It takes only a little time and effort for an adult to inspire in a youth an interest in genealogy.
Here are some ideas to help guide the youths in your life:
Boys Scouts of America Genealogy Merit Badge–A good introduction to genealogy. The boys learn genealogical terms, how to use genealogy charts and forms, and work on some personal genealogy projects (www.usscouts.org/mb/mb056.asp).
RootsWeb Classes–A series of free online classes including a beginner class titled "Where to Begin." (www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~rwguide/)
Brigham Young University Ancestors Project–The Web site for the PBS series "Ancestors," www.byub.org/ancestors/. There are lots of resources on this site.
Books–These books are good starting points and are available at Amazon.com and other online booksellers.
Climbing Your Family Tree: Online and Offline Genealogy for Kids by Ira Wolfman, published by Workman Publishing, 2002.
Through the Eyes of Your Ancestors: A Step-by-Step Guide to Uncovering Your Family's History by Maureen Taylor, published by Houghton Mifflin, 1999.
Intermediate to Advanced Activities and Awards
Youth Genealogists Association–This newly formed group's purpose is "to promote, mentor, and educate youth involved in family history and genealogy, and to help them find a voice in the genealogical community." It has published its first newsletter, which can be foun at http://fgsyouthsociety.wordpress.com/
Eagle Scout Leadership Service Project–Many scouts have chosen genealogy-related projects, such as oral history interviews at a nursing home or cleaning and restoring a cemetery. (www.eaglescout.org/project/eagleprj.html)
National Genealogical Society (NGS) Rubincam Youth Award–This is an annual writing contest established "to encourage and recognize our youth as the next generation of family historians." The competition is divided into two age groups. Senior is for students 16 to 18 in grades 10 to 12. The Junior category is for students 13 to 15 and in grades 7 to 9. Prizes include cash, NGS Home Study Course, and NGS membership. (www.ngsgenealogy.org/cs/rubincam_youth_award/nomination_form)
Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) Young Professional Scholarship–This award recognizes academic achievement in those who are preparing for a career in genealogy. To be eligible, applicants must be age 18 to 25 and enrolled as a high school senior, undergraduate, post graduate, or recent graduate. There is a cash award and conference registration to the APG Professional Management Conference. (www.apgen.org/scholarship/)
Federation of Genealogical Societies Youth Award–Honors volunteers age 18 years or younger who have made a significant contribution to a genealogical society. Nominees must be members of the genealogical society or a descendant of a member. (www.fgs.org)
Germans from Russia Heritage Society (GRHS) Youth Essay Contest–The contest is open to all students but the subject must be related to German Russian heritage.
There are three categories: Middle school, high school and university or college undergraduates. Winners receive a trophy and cash scholarship. (www.grhs.org/)
Our youths today have opportunities to participate in a wide variety of activities. Encouraging genealogy as one of those activities will give them an understanding of their family history and also will show them how their family fits into history.