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A Guide on Family Tree School Projects

written by: Kellie Hayden • edited by: Noreen Gunnell • updated: 1/20/2012

Teach students to make a family tree that will include research from primary and secondary sources. The end project will be colorful tree that includes a student photo and family heritage.

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    Student Family Trees

    Making a family tree can be part of an autobiography unit or a standalone activity. It can also be part of a research project because this project can use primary and secondary sources.

    Researching Family Heritage

    Students will need to research their heritage. They can interview their family members to fill out information on a family tree. When students interview family members, they are called primary sources.

    In addition, teachers can organize a field trip to a local historical society or library that has a section specifically for genealogy. This type of source is called a secondary source. If a student's family has lived in an area for a long time, there will many times be quite a bit of information in the local libraries and/or historical societies. Some families have already completed large trees. Student can use those to make their own.

    A Word of Caution

    When students can research their family tree, the whole family can be involved. It can be a fun, family project. However, there are some pitfalls that teachers should consider before beginning. Some students become worried when they can only fill in one side of their tree or very little of the family tree because of a divorce or other family crisis. In addition, students who are adopted sometimes stress about this activity because they usually only know their adoptive family information.

    The best way to deal with these issues is to send home a note to parents before beginning this lesson. A sample letter is included in a lesson for a primary family tree lesson. In addition, teachers need to tell students that the family tree is complete when they fill out all that they know. Some students will have a huge tree and others will have very small ones. The important thing is that the student completes the tree to the best of his or ability.

    Materials Needed for Family Tree

    For this lesson, students will need a photo of him or her, a family tree template and a piece of tag board or poster board. Family tree templates are readily available on the Internet for free. Teachers can have students use those or draw one on their own, using the templates as an example.

    Some students may want to invest money in the online sites that will help look up family members. However, this is not necessary. Free websites and sources can give students a wealth of information.

    The finished tree should be neat and colorful. The student’s full name should be clearly written in large letters on the paper or poster. Students should neatly write in all of the names that they found in their research. Since most students’ family members at one time came from another country, it is always fun for students to find out their heritage. This too should be included neatly on the family tree.

    This lesson involves the family. The family tree is something that students can have for keepsakes for many years to come. For a variation on this lesson, students can make a family photo tree for their close relatives.