“How?” You might ask. I was determined to find that out as I met up with them on a sunny, summer day at the Salt Lake City, Utah Cemetery.
While Kristiana snapped some pictures of her great-great-Grandfather—George King—and his family members nearby, her four sons skipped off to explore that section of the cemetery.
George King was a “Woodman of the World” and made it from Maine to Utah while working on the Union Pacific railroad. So we met and talked near his headstone as Kristiana snapped a few pictures for BillionGraves.
Pretty soon, 10-year-old Cameron came back from wandering and proudly announced that he had found the headstone of a pilot. His excitement was contagious, so both eight-year-old Dallin and I followed him over to see his great find. Sure enough, Cameron had found a headstone of a B24 pilot who had served in World War II.
“I’m the military genius of the family,” he told me.
“But both of us are interested in Star Wars” Dallin interjected.
I was pretty surprised about Cameron’s enthusiasm, but then he explained to me that on his mother’s side, his great-grandfather McCurdy was stationed in London during World War II and had a brother named Bill who was a B17 gunner and was lost in action.
I was blown away, these boys—all under the age of 12—could talk about their family history so easily!
Once we returned to the section where Kristiana was taking pictures, I just had to ask how she did it. How did she manage to get 4 boys all under the age of 12 to love genealogy?
“It’s just in our blood,” she said.
However, with a little more probing, Kristiana told me how when she was Cameron’s age, she would haul her dad’s big legal-sized book of remembrance to the kitchen table and hand-copy family tree charts and group records for her own book. She loved that she shared a name with her 4th-great-grandmother.
Kristiana carried that passion with her throughout her life, even when her oldest son, Alex, was very small. Her husband worked odd hours so on mornings he was home, he would take care of Alex for a little while and would drop Kristiana off at the Family History Library. When the boys would come pick her up, she would always tell them of her latest findings during her time there.
She felt like she needed to keep working on her family history even though life got even more crazy as her family grew and she began homeschooling them. It just became natural for her to bring up family history as she continued to work on it.
“I think we just talk about it a lot,” she explained. “We just talk about people, we make it sound fun and we decorate with family history items; we have old pictures on the walls. We’ve got a watercolor of St. Paul’s church in Halifax, Nova Scotia where their 4th great-grandfather was married when he came from England.”
In addition to being surrounded by family decorations, Kristiana finds ways to tie in family stories into what the boys are learning while she homeschools them.
“It makes it so much more real,” she said “because we’re talking about the Mayflower and I [say something] like ‘Oh and you had an ancestor—Miles Standish—[who was on the Mayflower]. That’s your grandfather 11-generations back!”
When they learned about World War II, the family interviewed their grandparents about what it was like to live during that time. “I’ve got video of [my two grandfathers] talking about their experiences, and we talked to my Grandma about living through rationing in World War II. She hated it because they rationed shoes and she loved shoes.”
Needless to say, history is their family’s favorite subject. “It’s hard to separate family history from world history and American history. I’ve really been able to show that as we’ve studied history.”
What do the boys say about it? “It’s like a puzzle—something to solve. And we love puzzles!”
Kristiana believes in a principle she read in an article in the New York Times that said when children know their family’s stories and where they came from, they are more resilient and can handle trials better. Kristiana found this to be true as her four handicapped siblings passed away over a period of seven years.
Kristiana’s mother said that one way she was able to deal with it was because she read her grandma’s life history in which her grandmother wrote about her mother losing 4 children of her own.
“My mother said ‘Knowing that my great-grandma went through that, maybe I can too.’ And it strengthened her to know that,” Kristiana explained. If there’s one thing that Kristiana wants in life, it’s that her children will be able find strength to brave hardships in life through knowing their family’s stories.
Although Kristiana’s stage of life isn’t typically the time of life that most people associate with genealogy, she says that “as we are in the process of raising children, our lives have been enriched to find out our heritage now.”
Through sharing her love of genealogy with her children through simple, every-day interactions, she has been able to successfully help her children realize that they belong to and are part of something bigger than themselves. They love doing their family history and they know that Genealogy is definitely not just for Grandmas!
To find out more about Kristiana’s genealogy projects, visit her Samuel Goodwin Family Genealogy blog. Do you agree with Kristiana? Comment below and let us know what you think!
Million More in May kicks off today! We have 31 days left to add one million new records to the BillionGraves database.
We’ve been encouraged in our efforts by a post from Shelley Crawford on her blog, Twigs of Yore. She’s let us share her recent experience using BillionGraves with you.
During school holidays recently, Shelley took her son with her to the cemetery to try to find some kind of activity he would be interested in. Using an iPhone and an Android tablet, the pair collected 70 photos in their short visit at the cemetery. And the kicker? Her son is six years old! Shelley comments on her son’s experience:
He did great! He seemed to enjoy the activity – wanted to stay longer and take more pictures but we were out of time. He’ll deny later that he enjoyed it or said any of that… but he did. It was only a short trip. It had taken us a while to leave the house (someone didn’t like any of his socks…) and I hadn’t planned to stay for long anyway, not knowing how the outing would turn out.
So there you have it, proof that BillionGraves is so easy to use, a six-year-old could do it.
We are certainly impressed with the six-year-old’s efforts, but we had no doubt that BillionGraves could be used easily by both children and adults! Thanks, Shelley, for sharing your experience and allowing us to share it with others! Go check out her genealogy blog to see what other tips she has to share.
So now you should have no excuse to download the app (if you don’t already have it) and head out to your local cemetery to start contributing to Million More in May! If you want a refresher on using the app or the transcribing process, visit our User Guide and Frequently Asked Questions.
BillionGraves is all about making family history research accessible. The driving force behind it is the idea that a volunteer force records headstones around the world and compiles the transcribed data in one place on BillionGraves.com. The database is free to search on the web, and it is now free to search from your iPhone or Android phone as well!
Why you should visit your local cemetery
Think of the BillionGraves effort as a wall waiting to be painted. If the painter puts smatterings of paint haphazardly across the wall, he’ll probably miss spots and leave an uneven layer of color. Yes, the wall will be painted, and yes, he can fill in the gaps, but if he had been methodical about painting the wall, he would be certain he covered the entire wall, and his cleanup work later would be reduced. There are clear benefits of being methodical about the picture-taking process with BillionGraves, too. Since we have volunteers working around the world, we can all finish painting the wall in record time. If you paint in your corner of the world, and she paints in hers, and so on, we’ll be certain we are covering the world’s cemeteries and collecting all the data we can to help people research their families from the comfort of their homes.
We can reach our goal of collecting one billion graves with the efforts of our volunteers. We appreciate your efforts, and we encourage you to continue to gather records from your local cemeteries. While it is exciting and moving to visit cemeteries where your relatives are buried, it is also vital to capture the data waiting for you in your local cemetery. Think of my mom. She lives in Florida, but all of her relatives are buried in the West, either in Colorado, Utah, or Idaho. She is waiting for the research from all of those cemeteries to be collected so she has access to her relatives’ information. While she waits, she has the opportunity to visit her local cemeteries in Florida, record the headstones in those cemeteries, and supply the data other families are waiting for in Maine, Kansas, Venezuela, or any other place around the world.
Get the youth involved
Getting your children or grandchildren involved will also speed up the process. Kids have natural technological abilities that we adults didn’t grow up learning. They can be a force for good as you visit cemeteries in your area. Let them provide service for their community, and let them learn at a young age the respect and appreciation for those who have gone before them that you have.
We can’t say this enough—we appreciate every effort from every volunteer. Let’s keep telling our friends about BillionGraves, visiting our local cemeteries, and transcribing the wealth of data that is flooding into our database.