Genealogy in the Classroom

Posted July 1, 2014 by Amanda | No Comment

It is always rewarding when we can introduce younger generations to the wonders of genealogy. Fostering that early interest in one’s family history is essential to preserving the stories of our family heritage. For the last few months, the history class of West Valley Middle School in Knoxville, Tennessee have been using Geni and our sister site WorldVitalRecords for their family history project. Spearheaded by their teacher, John Martin, this budding group of genealogists used Geni to build their family trees and searched WorldVitalRecords’ collection of historical documents to research their family histories.

A student working on his family tree on Geni

Martin shared, “the primary source documents on provided many wonderful discoveries and the students worked with great enthusiasm on to build their family trees.”

As the students researched, red dots were added on the classroom’s world map to mark each family’s primary country of origin. Then the students created poster boards of their trees to present their family history discoveries.

A student presenting her family tree poster

Many of the children’s families found the experience to be quite rewarding and plan to continue with their family history research.

Here are just a couple of the many stories from the students of West valley Middle School:

Quest for the American Dream

Records discovered through WorldVitalRecords brought new insight into the life of one boy’s grandfather. Although living in Mexico, his grandfather volunteered to join the U.S. Army during World War II and wanted to become an American citizen. He spent time serving in combat, and upon his honorable discharge, was granted American citizenship. According to the records the student discovered, his grandfather had very little formal education, and as a result, spent many decades picking fruit in the western states, mainly California. He worked hard to ensure his daughter was able to get the education he never had. His daughter, the student’s mother, went on to earn her PhD and is today, a very highly respected research scientist.

The Black Sheep 

Yet another amazing story comes from a child who’s ancestor had arrived in Massachusetts on a ship named “Alice.” He arrived only three years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth. With this in mind, Martin noted to the student that even though his ancestor was not a Pilgrim, it was likely he would have interacted with them. Deeper research revealed that the man did live amongst the Pilgrims and later moved to a nearby town where he ran an inn. According to the records, his license to run the inn was revoked twice for illegally selling wine. The student loved it! And can you blame him – who doesn’t love discovering a criminal in the family tree?

See what else the students of West Valley Middle School had to say:

“I enjoyed using the websites and I found out a lot about my family. It was fun.”

“My great-great grandfather and his son were both circus clowns!”

“Oh, man! Mr. Martin, I’m related to you!”

“Wow! I never knew one of my ancestors fought in the Civil War.”

“My family came through Ellis Island. We never knew that.”

It really brings a smile to our faces to see a new generation of children embracing their family history. Hopefully, this is only the beginning of their genealogy journey.

See more photos below:

All images courtesy of John Martin, West Valley Middle School

Post written by Amanda

Amanda is the Marketing Communications Manager at Geni. If you need any assistance, she will be happy to help!

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