1. Find something they have in common with an ancestor – Are they both Leos? Do they make potato soup from scratch like great-great- grandma Alice Miller? Do they have a pug like great-grandma Glennie? Building common ground makes ancestors more relate able.
2. Enlist help for a specific research project – Most younger generations are experienced with technology and maybe able to quickly access records or information on ancestors that you might be researching. Breaking a project down and letting them choose a specific way to help you could build a stronger relationship with them.
3. Go digital -Scanning old pictures and emailing them is a great way to share information with multiple family members. Younger, tech savvy generations may be able to help you digitize your records.
4. Host a family reunion – Family reunions are great places for sharing stories, talents, recipes, taking pictures, creating memories and sharing information.
5. Create an heirloom gift – It can be a fabric Christmas ornament made from grandpa’s favorite work shirt, framed copies of wedding photos of ancestors for a wedding gift, a military collage of ancestors who served their country for Veteran’s day, a typed up letter of your favorite childhood memory, or memory of them. Those are the gifts that are priceless.
6. Tell stories– Or better yet write them down or type them up.
7. Help history come to life– Learning about World War 1 in a classroom isn’t as exciting as seeing your great-great grandfather’s signature on a draft card. Understand jobs ancestors held from census records can make them more relatable or open the door to a new research project and information. (I now consider myself a quasi-expert on the orange industry of Covina, California and never would have thought I would have cared until I found a relative who was an orange grader, and wondered what the heck that entailed.)
8. Share random bits of information in conversation – Kansas? Did you know that most of our family once lived in Kansas and were farmers there? You think these are tough times? Your great, great Aunt Fern had to live with her in-laws, and raise her 2 kids during the depression after her husband was hit by a train.
9. Encourage curiosity with immediate information and tangible results Younger generations are used to instant gratification and information. Tell them that story about your crazy uncle Bob right away. Show them how they have the same smile as their great-grandpa. They might lose interest by next Thursday when you finally get around to climbing up to the attic, or digging through a box for that picture, or try to get the details straight to tell the story. (It’s another reason to have things digitized.)
10. Make your ancestors part of your life– So, you spend hours on the computer, or in the library (I won’t judge.) Tell them what you are working on, and why it’s important to find it. Have pictures and objects in your home from your ancestors and share why you value them. Passion and enthusiasm are contagious. With any luck, you can pass that genealogy bug to the next generation.