Before the performance began I texted a photo of the program to my father. The first tune they were playing was “C-Jam Blues” written by Duke Ellington. My dad, with glee replied back that he got to meet Duke Ellington when he was younger. My paternal grandfather was a professional jazz drummer in the Detroit area starting in the late 1930s, and avoided seeing combat during the Second World War because his skills with the drum kit were more essential to the war effort than his skills with a rifle. After the concert was over, and we had loaded everyone up in the van, I relayed this information to my son, who replied back:
“Wow, that’s cool. No wonder I like jazz music, it’s in my genes.”
That may not seem like much, but that is a genealogical win right there. That boy went to bed thinking about one of his ancestors. When he woke me up to let me know he was leaving for school (curse you Netflix for having all three Jurassic Park movies to binge watch!) we had a few minutes before the bus came and he asked more questions about his great-grandfather, just so he could make sure that he got the details right when he told his band mates and teacher the next day.
I never met either of my grandfathers, my Grandpa Earl died a few years before I was born. But for a few glorious minutes, as we discussed him and his life, I’d like to think he was there, listening to his youngest grandson and his great-grandson (who is partially named after him) talk about jazz. The music that defined his generation.
As genealogists these are the moments we hope for with our children and grandchildren. To paraphrase PT Barnum, “All of the kids aren’t interested all of the time, but some of the kids are interested some of the time.” So when those moments come, we need to be there to nurture that spark of interest. How can we do that as genealogists? Here are four steps:
- Take an active interest in what your kids/grandkids are interested in.
2. Be present at activities when you can.
When you can’t call or text afterwards.I know, I know. The kids never call. Well, guess what, the phone works both ways! I love it when my parents call just to say hello, even if we’re in the middle of a crying, bleeding, dirty diaper good-ole-fashioned six-kid meltdown. What’s more is the kids love it. They love to share what they are doing and they like to hear what you are doing. No seriously, stop laughing. Just try it.
3. Keep the stories brief and relevant.
I know, I know. But the story just gets better after the 10-minute mark. The text from my dad that sparked the above incident was a glorious eight words long. EIGHT. This sentence has eight words in it too. (I know you just went back and counted.) Challenge yourself. Think of a family story that you’d like to share, then reduce it to 15 words or less. Try it. If it sparks interest you can always fill in more details later.
4. Use pictures when you can.
My kids love pictures. If they suspect that I have gotten a snap through SnapChat from one of their aunts, uncles, or cousins they go absolutely berserk. (Think Marlon Brando’s death scene in ‘Isle of Doctor Moreau’.) So if you have a picture of the person you are talking about, all the better.
Well there you have it, four steps toward success in sharing your interest in family history with your descendants. How do you share your family history with your kids and grandkids? Comment below!