Ellis Island has long symbolized people coming to America in pursuit of dreams and the possibility of a better life. But even though we live in the Information Age, it seems that fewer and fewer of the people in our youngest generations even know their own ancestry–much less the way so many people have come to form this melting pot we call America. That’s probably why we need something like Ellis Island Family History Day on April 17th. It doesn’t matter whether or not you live in the shadow of Ellis Island–or the Statue of Liberty, right next to where so many immigrants were processed into America. Here are books about the immigrant experience to inspire children to learn more about who they really are, and where they came from…
Through the Eyes of Your Ancestors: A Step-by-Step Guide to Uncovering Your Family’s History by Maureen Taylor
Genealogy isn’t simple. It requires a lot of detective work to uncover some of the people that make up our family lines. Through the Eyes of Your Ancestors is easy to follow and engaging for young children. Each chapter begins with a story that leads children to want to uncover various aspects of their family’s history, no matter what their family tree looks like or how much they know about their ancestry.
The Kids’ Family Tree Book by Caroline Leavitt
This book is loaded with ideas for research and with projects geared toward teaching children about genealogy. It even teaches them how to interview family members and how to use library resources to help trace their roots. As the title implies, it also features a family tree that children can fill in with the information they discover.
My Family Tree Workbook by Rosemary Chorzempa
The goal of this book is a simple one: to introduce children to the concept of genealogy. It is presented in a way that allows the child to write the book as he or she goes along, learning how to gather information and record what they’ve learned. It also provides instructions on how to make a family tree and teaches about geography and foreign languages.
Roots for Kids: A Genealogy Guide for Young People by Susan Provost Beller
This book is geared toward slightly older children, and has been used as the basis for middle school social studies curricula on genealogy. Homeschooling parents may consider introducing it into their curriculum as a twelve-week course that will leave students more proficient at documenting family history than most adults. It is a wonderful and engaging resource for ages 11 and up.
The Great Ancestor Hunt: The Fun of Finding Out Who You Are by Lela Perl Yerkow
Also aimed at a slightly older readership, this book is not so much a how-to as it is a why-to. Its goal is to engage and inspire as well as teach middle school children the importance of knowing your family history because–as the subtitle proclaims–that really is who we are. Without our ancestors, we literally would not be here.