Sunday, June 3, 2012

An Unexpected Bonding Over Genealogy

As parents we often wonder how we can get our children interested in things we are interested in. It is a natural tendency to do this, as a way of sharing our interests, a way of communicating, and perhaps trying to bond with our children in some way. Sometimes our children show a keen interest, a polite interest, or... well... absolutely no interest.

For the past year my 7 year old has been trying to make sense of what I do. Just trying to pronounce genealogist was the first hurdle. At first he was saying geologist, to which I informed him that would mean I study rocks and land formations. Then the pronunciation evolved to gemologist, and I explained that was the study of gems, which are a different kind of rock. Finally, he got it down to genealogist and I was thankful he didn't progress onto gynecologist (my mother-in-law gets confused with that one), since I didn't want to enter into that discussion with my 7 year old.

So I've taken him to cemeteries. We've gone to a Civil War reenactment where I tell him in passing about an ancestor who was a cavalry man. A couple weeks ago we went to a rodeo and I told him about his great great grandfather who was a cowboy for a time. And of course I show him photos occasionally. I never make a big deal out of any of this, it's just conversation and a little sharing of family history. He shows interest in the moment and then moves on with his life, and that's okay.

Last night, I was not feeling well, and decided after getting my boys to their rooms for the night that I wasn't up for watching a two hour movie (a usual Saturday night activity). Instead, I decided to catch up on an episode of "Finding Your Roots" on dvr and then call it an early night. The episode featured Robert Downey Jr. and Maggie Gyllenhall. I had seen a portion of this episode, but was really interested in seeing all of it. I was particularly interested in Robert's German line. Robert's German ancestors came to Pennsylvania around the same time my German ancestors (the Fry/Frye/Frey's) did. He also had a relative apply to the DAR through a chapter in Huntington, Pennsylvania, which is where a different line of my German ancestors (the Brumbaugh's) were living for a time.

Anyway, shortly after I started watching the program I heard a noise behind me and it was my 7 year old. I don't know how long he had been standing there, but he said, "This looks very interesting. Can I watch it with you?"

I was surprised and patted the space next to me. We watched the show together for about 40 minutes and he was completely fascinated the entire time. At one point he wanted to know if I had been born in 1842 (gak! note to self... I need to show him a timeline). He enjoyed watching "Finding Your Roots" so much that he asked if he could watch future episodes with me. I never would have thought that such a sophisticated program would have appealed to my 7 year old. It just goes to show that bonding over genealogy with family (or friends and strangers) can happen in the most unexpected ways.

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