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Who’s In Your Family Tree Activity

Knowing about those who came before us can give us a great deal of information about where we might want to go in the future.

Research, Writing, Interview Skills

Elementary, Middle and High School

30-60 minutes

Paper and pencil, access to a knowledgeable adult for later follow up

To conduct research and interviews to discover how far back you can trace your family tree and to interview adults in your family to find out further information about your ancestors.

Post a picture of your work to social media with the hashtag #fdractivities

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Historic Context:

President Roosevelt was very proud of the fact that he could trace his ancestry all the way back to when the first Roosevelt came to America. Looking at the Roosevelt family tree also shows a very interesting fact. Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt were distant cousins who shared a common ancestor going back five generations! In addition the Roosvelt family tree shows that Franklin and Teddy Roosevelt were also distant cousins!!

Being able to trace the family in such a detailed manner allows us to learn about important relationships between those we are related to, and to learn the major influences that shaped their lives and careers. Outlining your family tree and conducting interviews of prominent families members will help you learn a lot about your family and yourself.

Activity Steps/Procedures:

Download/print Family Tree template»

  1. Print out and fill out the template provided. If you are unable to print it, find a sheet of paper and a pencil and recreate it.
  2. Starting at the top fill in your name.
  3. Moving from the center outwards, you’ll fill in the names of your family, starting with your mother and father.
  4. Move out to the next level and fill in the names of each of your grandparents in the spaces that connect to your parents.
  5. Continue outward on the chart as far as you can. 

Questions to Consider:

  1. Where did the people in your family tree originally come from?
  2. Why did they decide to come here?
  3. Did it surprise you to discover you have so many relatives?
  4. What was the most interesting thing you learned about your family?

A Step Beyond:

Now that you have your family tree mostly, or completely filled in, with the names of your relatives, it is time to start filling in some details. 

  1. When were the people listed alive? (birth dates and death dates)
  2. When were the people married?
  3. Where did they live? 
  4. What did they do for a living?
  5. Ask your parents if there are any photographs of the people on your tree.
    1. What does the style of the clothes they are wearing tell you about them
    2. How do their expressions match what you know about how their life was?
    3. What does the quality of the photographs tell you about the development of technology over time?
  6. Ask some of the people on your tree if you can interview them about their experiences in life.
    1. What challenges did they overcome?
    2. What opportunities did they take advantage of?
    3. What words of advice or wisdom do they have to offer?
    4. Search online to see if you can locate your ancestors in census records, military records or other genealogical sites.