Fancy Nancy likes to explore big words. In working with genealogy, a fancy word for family history, there are a lot of big words and concepts. Fancy Nancy encounters many of these concepts in her class assignment to write a report about an ancestor, someone in her family who lived a long time ago. However, in the process of writing her report, Nancy falls prey to the temptation that all family historians encounter at some point in documenting their family. She decides that the ordinary, every-day lives of her great-grandparents were not exciting enough for her report, so she decides to add some made-up parts to her report so that it would be more interesting. While it made her story sound better, it was not accurate (a big word for true), and she did, at the last minute, decide to just tell the real story without her embellishments.
In the world of family research, it is always good to find out as much as you can about each person you add to your family tree. It is a lot more interesting if you have more than just name, birth date, marriage date, death date, and locations lived. Those are good facts to start with, but they don’t tell the story of who the person was, fun details about them, or what made them real, beyond the dry facts. Nancy was on the right track with telling the story rather than just the facts for her great-grandfather, but where she went off-track was in making up fancier parts of the story rather than telling the actual details.
Nancy started out well with interviewing her grandfather about his parents. This is a great first step in finding out more about your ancestors because some of your best starting materials are the older people in your family, the photos you may have, and other documents that may have been kept by family members. As a Local History and Genealogy Librarian in a public library, I work with people of all ages in how to get started with recording and researching their family history.
If you want to work with your kids (or get started in genealogy yourself), there are some great resources out there to help. Check with your local library, genealogy society, or historical society to see if they have resources or people who can help you get started. Some books that are helpful for beginners are:
Guide to Genealogy: Tips & Tricks on how to Uncover your Roots and build your Family Tree by T.J. Resler available from National Geographic Kids, Washington, DC, 2018.
Basic Genealogy for Kids by Bonnie Hinman available from Mitchell Lane Publishers, Hockessin, DE, 2012.
Climbing Your Family Tree: Online and Off-Line Genealogy for Kids (the Official Ellis Island Handbook) by Ira Wolfman, available from Workman Publishing, NY, 2002.
A couple of websites that can be helpful for working with your kids are:
The Family Tree Kids section of the Family Tree Magazine website. https://www.familytreemagazine.com/kids/familytreekids/
Family Search (largest, free, genealogy database in the world) Kids resource pages. https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Family_History_Activities_for_Children:_3-11
The In-Depth Genealogist Kids Korner. http://theindepthgenealogist.com/resources/kids-korner/
Within these resources and at your local library, you will find forms to help you organize the information you find, lists of questions to ask relatives, and a lot more. It always helps to start with yourself and gather your own information (birth certificate or announcement) and the information about your parent’s birth and marriage before moving back in time to your grandparents and great-grandparents.
Fancy Nancy: My Family History is available from Amazon in paperback, hardcover, Audible, and Kindle editions.
Charity C. Rouse is a Local History and Genealogy Research Librarian, here to share her professional perspective on Fancy Nancy: My Family History.