genealogy activities for children

Playdough Pedigree Activity (1)
There have been a good many things happening in my life these days that would be worthy of blogging about on this blog and I hope to get caught up soon. I make no promises. Rearing the little ones takes up more time than anything, but it is a joy. In fact, I’ve decided to take on homeschooling them. They are only four and two years old and after much contemplation I’m pretty confident I can swing this home school thing during the early years. The beauty of it all is that I can have as much flexibility in their curriculum as I’d like. When I consider my personal strengths genealogy is pretty high on that list. Once I started brainstorming and imagining age-appropriate ways I may get my children (and others) energized about genealogy I came up with a pretty full list of ideas for older children, but was still in need of some hands-on-activities for the Pre-School crowd.

Now here is the part where I share with you a little secret gem on the internet that I’ve discovered and have fallen madly in love with: Growing Little Leaves. This website is chock full of resources for any parent, teacher or caregiver that would like to introduce children to the world of genealogy. I’ve only scratched the surface of some of the ideas found in the activities area and can tell you this much: my four year old daughter loves the activities as well. We’ve had the opportunity to do two of the activities here in our home and I’d like to highlight how they went for us.

Playdough Pedigree Activity (4)My daughter had the most fun with this activity. She keeps asking when we will make her Play-Doh family again and again, so I know this was a real hit. I mean… Play-Doh! I had actually found and viewed this activity master-mined by Emily Kowalski Schroeder a few weeks prior to trying it out. I didn’t have the site up at the time I decided to try it for myself, so I attempted to wing it from memory. The first step, I thought would be to create a simple pedigree on a long white sheet of paper for my daughter to have as a guide in building her Play-Doh family. (We did this activity close to bedtime, so it was a little rushed on my part.) After we went over all her grandparents and briefly discussed how each of them also has their own mother and father we broke out the Play-Doh.

I gave may daughter some basic guidelines about each generation being Playdough Pedigree Activity (3)a different color of Play-Doh, showed her how to roll her Play-Doh self into a nice round ball and then attach it to the stick. She took the lead from there. We talked about which color was whom while she rolled them in her hands and I explained what a generation was as she advanced backwards. My daughter has a better understanding of her maternal ancestry and grandparents since they are here stateside. She has not yet met her paternal grandparents (something we need to remedy soon) and despite being shown photos of them, their names don’t stick as much for her. We stopped making Play-Doh balls at her grandparents because great-grands would have been a bit overwhelming in explaining. I did draw them on her white paper though.

Playdough Pedigree Activity (2)

The next time I approach this activity I’d like to have more colors of Play-Doh. We had five this go-round, but I’d like to take it back one more generation to see how that goes. I may be underestimating her ability to soak it all in.

Family Tree Fractions:

This was the second activity from the site I wanted to explore. I loved the concept of introducing children to fractions and math through genealogy. As someone who never developed a real interest in math as a child I’d like that experience to be different for my children. Time will tell what they latch on to anyhow.

Family Tree Fractions Activity (3)

Family Tree Fractions Activity (6)So the fractions. I had loads of scrapbook paper already available and I let my 4 year old start by selecting papers she wanted to represent herself, mom, dad, etc. Then I moved on to showing her how to trace circles using a plastic plate and pencil or marker. Lastly, I allowed her to cut her own circles, because using scissors is one of the highlights of her day and it would have bored her to tears to watch me cut out all the pieces on my own. Yes, this was labor intensive for a 4 year old and I thought she was going to get tired after the third circle, yet she happily completed 10 circles on her own. I was doing one of my own while she did hers and ended up making 8 whole sets should I decide to lead this activity with a larger group in the future.

Next I had her to cut one circle in half, folding it first like a taco and then cutting down the center. I had her repeat a second time with a different color circle and explained that one half of the taco from the first circle would be Daddy and the other half from the second taco would be Mommy. We repeated folding and cutting the circles using a combination of food examples in conjunction with all the family tree parts. So for the grandparents she folded four different circles into four equal parts kind of like a pizza with four slices. This was so silly and fun to her.

Finally! Once all the folding and cutting was complete it was time to put her family tree fractions into practice. I told her what she had just created was a puzzle of herself. Starting with the big round circle as her whole self, we moved onto the half circle pieces. I explained she is made up of half of Mommy’s DNA and half of Daddy’s DNA. I continued explaining using food as examples in regards to what DNA was. I asked her to think about what was inside of a taco and to think to two different tacos, basically creating the DNA of a taco. Then I transitioned taco talk back to the DNA of people talk. I’m sure you all get where I’m going with this and she literally ate all of this information up. Family Tree Fractions

Overall I’d say she enjoyed the Play-Doh activity a bit more than the fractions, but now that I’ve laminated my 8 sets of family tree fractions and hers we’ll be going back over this activity more times to come. It’s funny to see how much she is processing just from these two activities alone. Now she’ll exclaim while giggling, “Mommy, it is crazy that my Grandma and Grandpa are your Mommy and Daddy!”

I agree. I totally agree.

finding your roots: in search of our fathers

Finding Your RootsTuesday night’s season premiere of the hit PBS series “Finding Your Roots” with Henry Louis Gates Jr. kicked the season off by profiling celebrities Stephen King, Gloria Reuben and Courtney Vance, all of whom knew virtually nothing about their fathers and/or their father’s family. The first part of the program revealed to viewers a variety of circumstances that took the fathers out of the lives of each celebrity along with the hope of uncovering their family lineage. For Stephen King, he was just a young boy when his dad left the house for a pack cigarettes – never returning. Gloria Reuben was one of her father’s children from a second marriage. Her father was 73 years of age when Gloria was born and he passed away when she was quite young. For Courtney Vance, his father had been given away as a child and had always been in Courtney’s life until he committed suicide when Courtney was 30 years of age.

I suspected I would be able to relate to the many emotions everyone in this particular episode encountered based off of my own experience with my natural father and my step-father. And boy could I relate.
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yazoo + warren county maps, DNA connections and more (part 1)


Psst… Want to hear a secret? I guarantee this is going to rock your socks off when I reveal it you. Ready? Wait, no. Okay, here it goes. Way back when – a very long time ago our ancestors lived in very close proximity to their family. Say what?! YES! Now most of you already knew that or suspected as much for immediate family members and I know this isn’t true for everyone, but for the most part families stayed within arms reach more times than not. This little secret even applies for extended family members who could often be found nearby as well. This is something I myself continue to rediscover as I return to old census records I’d sworn I reviewed with a fine tooth comb. However, it is actually my ongoing efforts and waiting for new DNA matches (who are very slowly appearing) that is causing to re-review the records once more.

Because I enjoy sketching (it helps me to retain information better) I decided to draw out a map of the areas my 2x great grandparents, Stark King and Jeannie Gilliam King were residing in 1900 and 1910 to reflect this phenomenon of families living close by one another. These map sketches of mine are strictly based off of my imagination and are not drawn to scale or with any land surveys, so entertain me if you will.

Let me begin with the 1900 Census. Stark and Jeannie were living in the Enola area of Beat 1. I’m told Enola was once a plantation and in imagining a plantation I drew rows of houses to reflect data from four consecutive pages. In this case that would be pages 49-52 out of 67 pages from this enumeration district. Anyhow, back to Stark and Jeannie. At the time of enumeration they had in their household four children; Brucie, John, Riley and Miranda King. My great grandmother, Louise King, would be born a few months later that year. For the past decade all of the other names on the page they are listed and even a few pages forward and backwards were quite insignificant. The only exception being the Darwin Gilliam fellow who I suspect a sibling relationship to my Jeannie Gilliam, but have nothing to prove such.

Now behold the power behind DNA testing for the purposes of Ancestry or genetic genealogy. On my 1900 map I sketched all the households listed in pencil and then I went back on made bold the households where a DNA tested descendant or living representative has appeared within my list of matches. All of these particular matches have appeared within my matches at Since I’m dealing with a number of families this may become a little messy, so I will do my best to keep it tidy by assigning a letter to house in bold with a their DNA match. Here goes:

Match A: Represents a descendant(s) from the line of Sonny Hawkins
Match B: Represents a descendant(s) from the lines of Lewis & Delia Bell Miller
Match C: Represents a descendant(s) from the lines of Stark and Jeannie Gilliam King
Match D: Represents a descendant from the lines of both Rena Crockett Johnson and Albert and Cassie Ann Morris Lewis
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current research interests

I recently shared in detail my connections and research interests related to Yazoo County, Mississippi. The King and Gilliam lines out of Yazoo from which I descend can be found on my mother’s maternal side. I made a commitment this year to focus on my mother’s maternal lines first and foremost. That is the part of my family tree with the least amount of information. Still, I would like to summarize some additional interests across my entire pedigree. Without further delay here they are:


Location(s): Franklin, Lincoln & Bolivar Counties, MS

Celia Ann Robinson Thomas, formerly Celia Ann Roberts is my 2x great grandmother who resided in Bolivar County, MS. When I requested her 1913 Death certificate from the MDAH I had no idea how it would propel me into seeking free people of color (FPOC) in Franklin and Lincoln County. Per the information provided on her death certificate, my Celia Ann was the daughter of a James Roberts from Franklin County, MS. With the information found on the death certificate I was finally able to locate Celia Ann in the 1870 and 1880 Census years living in Lincoln County with her father James Roberts and mother, also named Celia. I noticed from the 1870 Census that Celia Ann’s father James was listed as a mulatto which prompted me into seeing whether he could be found in 1860. And wouldn’t you like to know what I found?! I found a mulatto James Roberts (presumably the same one that is Celia Ann’s father) living free in 1860 and 1850 with his family. Free People of Color!

Actually, on these two census years I see that James’ father, Dread Roberts, is a mulatto man married to a white woman, Elizabeth Mitchell Roberts. Say what? Yes. Here is where my troubles and questions arise. If James was a FPOC living comfortably in Franklin and later Lincoln County, why did he and several of his children turn up living in Bolivar County with the last name Robinson? Well a couple thoughts come to mind. Come 1870 Dread Roberts and the rest of his children are now passing for white. This trend continues into 1880 and onward for all of Dread Robert’s children. They marry white people and their children become white as listed on every Census record post 1870. The only exception is my 3x great grandfather, James Roberts. So did he move to the Mississippi Delta and change his name because he married / partnered with a woman of color? Or was he himself phenotypically of defect to his own family?

So far I’ve located a number a of Dread Roberts white descendants a.k.a. my distant 4th and 5th cousins, but none are too familiar with their family history that far back. Hmm, I wonder why? I’m certainly not trying to ask anyone who obviously looks white to redefine who or what they are. I only want to have a complete and accurate history to pass down to my own children. This is one of my research areas where I am hoping DNA testing will prove most useful.

Location(s): Mississippi Delta & King George, VA

Anderson Henderson, my 2x great grandfather, was always said to be the son of Hardie and Susan Dandridge Henderson. I accepted it. I rolled with it until I decided to order the pension record of Hardie Henderson. Boy did that muddy the water! Hardie, a Civil War veteran, has a pension file that is 90+ pages long. Long story short: Hardie does a good job including information on his spouse and their children. The first issue I came across was Susan, his wife, was a war widow. The documents state she was previously married to a Bob Green(e) who perished in Vicksburg. My next observation was that Hardie never lists Anderson as one of his children unless Anderson has another name unbeknownst to me. It would seem to me that my 3x great grandfather, Anderson Henderson was adopted by Hardie and took on his surname. However, his biological father is a Green(e). That naturally changes the whole ball game.
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mississippi delta genealogy road trip: planning it out


Section of an 1874 Map of Yazoo County, Mississippi with Phoenix area

I hate to moan and groan about one season compared to another, but I’m so ready for Fall. This Florida summer heat has been brutal and we are not even deep into the season. Plus I’m ready for new and inspiring episodes of Finding Your Roots. Really, I’m most excited about my upcoming genealogy road trip to the Mississippi Delta in October. So what’s on the agenda and what am I hoping to accomplish? Here is my loose working itinerary thus far:

Day 1: 14 hour drive day from Central Florida to Yazoo City, Mississippi. Check in to hotel and rest up.
Day 2: Explore downtown Yazoo City by foot in the morning checking out as many historical African-American landmarks as possible (Wash Rose Building, Bethel A.M.E Church, Henry Herschel Brickell Memorial Yazoo Literary Walkway) For the afternoon I’m thinking of checking out the Oakes African American Cultural Center before hitting the road to drive through the Phoenix and Enola areas where my people once lived.
Day 3: Check out of hotel and hit the road for Indianola in the morning. Visit the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center. My grandmother always stated that B.B. King was her cousin although I have yet to tidy up that connection. Have lunch in Indianola and head over to Greenville to check in to hotel for next couple of days.
Days 4 & 5: The plans for these two days are very loose at the moment. One full day may be dedicated to exploring the Choctaw community of Shaw, MS where my grandmother was born and raised. The city is having an annual city wide reunion, so it should be a good opportunity to meet people, including cousins I’ve not yet met in person. I’d like to visit the church where she went to school as a girl and perhaps a cemetery where my ancestors may have been buried. Because we will also be fortunate enough to be around while the Mighty Mississippi Music Festival is going down in Greenville, we may pop into that for our Blues fix.
Day 6: Say farewell and hit the road back to Florida.

It is going to be a short and fast trip, but I’m sure we will find our way to slow it down and relax a bit once we’ve reached our destination(s). For the sake of my mother and two small children who will be in tow, I am omitting research time at the court house and library for a more lively itinerary. Truthfully, I’ve gotten a lot of records over the years through Mississippi vital department, MDAH and with the help of local volunteers. I can’t think of anything I’d need to obtain in the court house at this time, but something always comes up. Unfortunately, if records are desired I’ll have to obtain them another time.

As for what I’ll be bringing along:

1. Portable scanner. This is probably one of the most important items for a genealogy road trip that I can think of. Should I run across someone with old family photos and an opportunity presents itself to make a copy this is one of the easiest ways to do so.
2. Camera.
3. Blank autosomal DNA test sampling kits from FTDNA.
I’m contemplating bringing 3-5 kits. If I happen to run into a relative that becomes interested in testing I’ll have the materials they’ll need right then and there. No pressure, right? :p
4. Healthy Snacks. I’ve been to Mississippi to know that I can’t always find the healthiest of snacks while enjoying the delicious down home Southern that is there, so better safe than sorry.

That’s all that comes to mind for the moment beyond the basics. Is there anything else I may need to consider when packing? How about restaurants and attractions while I’m in Yazoo? Indianola? Shaw? Or Greenville? Any expert opinions are very much welcome and appreciated.

Note: 1874 Yazoo County provided by the Ricks Memorial Library Historian