Explaining Genealogy to my Five Year Old
This evening, I sat down to dinner with my family and said to my five year old son, Alex, "Do you know who the Pilgrims are?"
"Yeah, they had a very tough boat ride," he said. "And then they were friends with the native Americans."
"That's about right," I said with a big smile. It was all my wife and I could do to contain ourselves.
Then I said, "So, do you know what a 'great-grandfather' is?"
He looked at me sort of puzzled.
You see where I was going with this? My goal was to explain to him that his 11th-Great grandfather, actually two of them, were on that boat ride.
Then I pulled out a piece of paper, and drew a short family tree starting with him. His little brother, who was listening intently said, "Hey, where am I?" So I added him in, and their big sister Sarah as I knew that was next, though she wasn't there for the discussion.
I pointed at the first stick figure and said, "OK, this is you...and this is me and your mother."
Then I pointed to my parents and said, "Who are they?"
Then I pointed to his mother's parents...
Wow, he's getting it.
Then I drew two more lines and stick figures for my grandfather and grandmother.
"Who are they?" he asked.
"That's my grandfather and grandmother."
"What are their names?" he said, more interested than I expected.
"Robert and Helen," I replied, "That's where you got your middle name. They are my grandparents and they are your great grandparents."
Then what he said next floored me.
"Does it keep going Dad? Who's above them?"
OK, here we go. This was easier than I thought. I drew the next two above my grandfather.
"And what were their names?" he asked excitedly.
He was truly interested in these people and their names and then he started asking if they were still alive. I explained that they were born a very long time ago.
"Vickery Baker was born in 1797. That would make him over 200 years old today."
His eyes lit up, "wow."
I kept going and drew the tree, only including the line up to Stephen Hopkins, and explained who he was.
"Was he the boss of the ship dad?" (heh, 5 year olds have their priorities.)
"How old would he be?"
Alex then wrote, "40020" at the top of the chart, which is his version of Four Hundred and Twenty.
"Does it go all the way back to the cavemen, Dad?"
"Well, I suppose it does, Alex..."
Which sort of blows my mind to contemplate that.
Here's the entire chart. It starts at the bottom right.
As I was going through this exercise, I realized that I had never actually drawn that tree by hand. What a shame that I had never done that, and that I couldn't do it from memory. And while I did know that I'm 13th generation Mayflower ancestor, I couldn't have told you without looking it up that the male line includes one Hopkins, Five Snows, and Five Bakers before it changed to my surname with my father.
I'm not sure who learned more, my son or me.
I look forward to more genealogy sessions with Alex.
on 2011-11-23 23:05:14
Scott Jangro is the owner of FamilyTreeCircles.com and has documented roots back to Mayflower passengers Stephen Hopkins and William Brewster. If you're wondering what he's doing when he's mysteriously absent, here's some links to other stuff he's responsible for: about.me/jangro.