A Message to Children: You Belong 5


Blossoms & Branches

Blossoms & Branches Photo Credit: Valerie Moore, Graphic Designer, used with permission

 

The following blog is written for and to children. Please share it with the children in your life! For articles for adults about doing genealogy and learning about history with children, see the column Blossoms & Branches by Katie Andrews Potter in Going In-Depth.

Write down your name—your full name. What do you see? Your name can tell you a lot about yourself, your personal history, and your family history. Why did your parents choose your first name? Maybe your first name has a special meaning to your parents. Maybe your middle name came from the name of a grandparent. Now look at your last name. Your parents didn’t get to choose it. So where did it come from? Did you know that, unlike your first and middle names, your last name has probably been in your family for centuries? It gets passed on to every new child born into your family, on down for generations. And, by doing a little detective work, that little word can tell you a lot about where you family comes from. Because if you trace the grandparents with that last name all the way back, many times you will find where they were originally from. Sometimes it can tell you what your ancestors did—my husband’s ancestors, the Potters, for example, were probably—guess what—potters! If your last name is Smith, your ancestors were probably blacksmiths. Other languages do the same thing—in German, Hofer means your ancestors were most likely farmers. You can do this on all sides of your family too—not just on your own last name. What was your mother’s maiden name? You can trace that last name, too. What about your grandparents’ last names? The possibilities are endless.

Part of my family tree hanging on the wall of my office – just one part of tracing your family history—adding names to the family tree! Photo Credit: Katie Andrews Potter

Part of my family tree hanging on the wall of my office – just one part of tracing your family history—adding names to the family tree! Photo Credit: Katie Andrews Potter

Now go look in the mirror. What do you see? Look at the shape of your eyes, the curve of your nose, the lines of your lips. Now think about how your face came to be the way it is. Every aspect of your face came from your parents, their parents, and so on. Maybe you have your mother’s eyes, or the red hair of your grandma. Your ancestry shaped every part of the way you look. Even in the sound of your voice you can hear your family.

My grandfather and his grandson—can you see the resemblance? They have the same eyes! Photo Credit: Katie Andrews Potter

My grandfather and his grandson—can you see the resemblance? They have the same eyes! Photo Credit: Katie Andrews Potter

I say all this to tell you: you are not your own. You are made up of the building blocks of each and every one of your ancestors. Their blood flows through your veins. Their genes make up who you are. Yes, you are an individual, with your own likes and dislikes, interests and talents, but even some of those things you inherited from those you came from! And with that, I’d like to introduce you to the study of genealogy.

It’s wonderful to start working on genealogy when you’re young, because most likely you are surrounded by your older family members who can help you. So many people don’t get started until they are older when all of their family is gone. But you have a chance to start now!

Margaret Ploughe Cross with her great-grandsons, Ken and William Potter c. 1925 Photo Credit: Potter family collection, Courtesy of the work of William Potter, used with permission of Jim Potter and Ruth Levering Potter

Margaret Ploughe Cross with her great-grandsons, Ken and William Potter c. 1925 Photo Credit: Potter family collection, Courtesy of the work of William Potter, used with permission of Jim Potter and Ruth Levering Potter

Doing family history can help you understand how you belong to your family—whether you were born into it, or adopted into it—and your family’s place in the world. Genealogy is the study of family history—and history is made up of stories. Each of your family members, each of your ancestors, have a story to tell. Now it’s your job to learn them. I’ll be back to show you how, but if you just can’t wait, get your parents’ permission, and check out my article in September’s issue of Going In-Depth to help you get started!


Katie Andrews Potter

About Katie Andrews Potter

Katie Andrews Potter is a 9th generation Hoosier and has been researching her family history since she was 16. She has a degree in Elementary Education, has done graduate work in History, and is currently pursuing a certificate in Genealogical Studies from NIGS. She is the author of the young adult historical fiction series The Wayfaring Sisters, and the creator of Storybook Ancestor. She lives in Indianapolis with her husband, Ben, and their two children, Eliana and Micah.

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5 thoughts on “A Message to Children: You Belong

  • HEChan

    It isn’t the same with adopted children. They, generally don’t care about the genealogy of the adopting parents. They often just don’t care–not everybody likes genealogy or recognizes that it could be the TRUTH. t The thing many would like to know is about their blood line. That could open up a can of worms. I knew one person who did all the genealogy of her family she was adopted into. That was the only one I’ve known. Others have caused problems with the birth mother who may not have told her children or, even husband about having one given up for adoption when she was young. The adopted child called her and asked “Could you be my mother>”. The children were very angry for various reasons–husband wasn’t too happy that he didn’t know, and he thought he knew his wife. She was a teacher. Walk with care and caring with the adopted child i. She birth mother gave the child up to an agency “knowing” that there would be no contact–that that’s the end of the story. . I’m not sure it was fair to anybody. I’m an advocate of adoption agencies, but maybe a lawyer who doesn’t know beans about the situation might be safer from the privacy angle,..and don’t tell me that the kings and queens did it when they, politically needed a male child, and we all know that. Nothing is “sacred’ now.
    I will tell you that if they knew the grandparents or cousins, they are interested because of that person. They usually don’t care how they fit in except with the ones they know. If I’m generalizing–I do know “from whence I come”: to these conclusions.

  • Katie Andrews Potter
    Katie Andrews Potter Post author

    Thank you for your insight. Certainly not all children will be interested in genealogy – it generally is not something that the younger generations are interested in at all! I know when I began at age 16 I was looked upon as an oddity. My hope is to engage children from all walks of life, and hopefully adopted children will find a way to be involved, and by my comment I meant to show adopted children how much they belong to their adopted family, plus it is probably easier for them to research their adopted family’s history. I welcome further insight so I can be more inclusive to foster and adopted children in my writings in the future!

  • Silvia

    I can’t understand why an adopted child may want to research their adopted parents background! If nothing else, I would think that the adopted child may want to research their birth parent’s background!