10 Websites and Genealogy Resources for Kids

This past autumn, we enjoyed a family holiday on the East Coast of the United States and were thereby afforded with numerous educational experiences exploring our nation’s history. One of our most anticipated visits was to Ellis Island and the Museum of Immigration.
genealogy for kids

While here, we enjoyed a guided interpretive walk with a park ranger and thereafter enjoyed the many exhibits on our own. Amongst the highlights of our visit was seeing Norwegian bunad and langeleik, a stringed folklore musical instrument also known as a droned zither. As both my husband and I have Norwegian ancestors, seeing these personal artifacts brought the experience alive for us.

Genealogy Resources for Kids

Genealogy has always been fascinating to me. I grew up listening to stories my dad would share of his childhood and the stories that had been passed on to him by his Uncle Sam who had emigrated from Norway in the early 1900s. We’ve explored many of the branches of our family tree over the years. Today, I share some of our favorite genealogy resources for kids.

World’s Largest Online Resource for Family History

This is a subscription based, very user friendly site that is great even for a novice. This is the site I have used the most in my research. It includes records, links to other users, family trees, resources, pictures, and cemeteries.

Family Search

Family Search is a nonprofit family history organization maintained by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Since the Latter-day Saints are dedicated to preserving the records of their ancestors, they provide this service free.

Resources for Genealogists

Free database for genealogists that includes immigration, naturalization, military, passport, land, and bankruptcy records.

Researching Records and Archives

A low priced paid subscription web service that provides the user with an abundance of archived records of their ancestors.

Ellis Island History Center

Free immigration information for any ancestors that were processed through the Ellis Island and the Port of New York between 1892 and 1924, during their years of operation. Even if the relatives did not go through the port, it is an excellent source with links to other helpful sites.

genealogyforkidsGenealogy For Kids Forms

This site is geared for children with adult help. It has several links to forms kids can use, questions that they would find helpful while interviewing relatives and even a ‘cousin calculator’ that will help figure out how family members are related.

Genweb Project for Kids

This site is a good place for younger kids to start. It has links to several sites that would be helpful, however several of the links aren’t working. As with all internet usage, parental monitoring is needed.

Washington State Genealogy Resources for Kids

Excellent resource for students as well as adults with a wealth of information on researching the family tree.

Climbing Your Family Tree

This is an excellent source of worksheets for children to use when charting their family tree. It has PDF files to be used when interviewing family members.

Companion Website to be Used with the PBS Program Ancestors

An online companion to the series of 13 episodes presented by PBS on researching your ancestry. Each episode takes the viewer on a journey closer to finding their family’s story.

Science Milestones: The Heroine of Lyme Regis, Mary Anning

In my Facebook newsfeed recently, a memory popped up highlighting a field trip we took part in years ago when we first began our homeschool journey. Our visit to Paleo Lands Institute in Eastern Oregon is one of our fondest homeschool experiences. When we visit the Field Museum in Chicago last week, we reflected on this trip as we marveled at the many specimens they had on display – the most impressive, of course, was SUE (pictured below).

The unveiling of her 67-million-year-old skeleton at The Field Museum made global headlines in May of 2000. As the largest, best-preserved, and most complete Tyrannosaurus rex ever found, she is considered to be the most famous fossil ever found. She measures 40.5 feet long from snout to tail and 13 feet tall at the hip.

Interesting fact: While SUE is frequently referred to as a “she,” scientists don’t actually know her sex.

Virtually all parts of SUE’s skeleton are preserved in great detail—even the surface of her bones. Scientists can actually see where muscles, tendons, and ligaments once attached. Not only are most of the bones undistorted from fossilization, but cross-sections of the bones show that even the cellular structure inside remains intact.

w/ Sue at the Field Museum, Chicago

If SUE is the most famous fossil, who then is regarded as the most renowned fossilist the world ever knew?  The answer is Mary Anning.

Despite the fact that Mary Anning’s life has been made the subject of several books and articles, comparatively little is known about her life, and many people were unaware of her contributions to paleontology in its early days as a scientific discipline. How can this be, you ask?

Biography

Mary Anning by B. J. DonneMary Anning was born on the 21st of May 1799 to Richard and Mary Anning in Lyme Regis, Southwest England. Mary grew up in a prime location to lead a life of fossil collecting. The marine fossil beds in the cliffs in this area remain today a huge source of fossils from the Jurassic period.

Her findings contributed to important changes in scientific thinking about prehistoric life and the history of the Earth. At the age of 12, Mary Anning was to become one of the most famous popular palaeontologists, with her discovery of a complete Icthyosaur.

Interesting fact: Though she is now credited with the discovery, her brother had first found the specimen. Mary did find the majority of the remains and contribute significantly to the excavation work. Mary went on to find two more species of Ichtyosaur in her life.

In early 1821, Anning made her next big discovery with the finding of the first Plesiosaurus. She sent a drawing she made to the renowned George Curvier, who at first snubbed it as a fake. Upon further examination, he eventually reversed this statement finally giving Anning the respect she had deserved from the scientific community. This discovery is perhaps her most important find, from a scientific point of view.
Autograph letter concerning the discovery Wellcome L0022370
The majority of Mary’s finds ended up in museums and personal collections without credit being given to her as the discoverer of the fossils. There are many factors contributing to this error: the lack of appropriate documentation of her special skills, her social status, and more importantly, her gender. Many scientists of the day could not believe that a young woman from such a deprived background could posses the knowledge and skills that she seemed to display.

For example, in 1824, Lady Harriet Sivester, the widow of the former Recorder of the City of London, wrote in her diary after visiting Mary Anning:

“. . . the extraordinary thing in this young woman is that she has made herself so thoroughly acquainted with the science that the moment she finds any bones she knows to what tribe they belong. She fixes the bones on a frame with cement and then makes drawings and has them engraved. . . It is certainly a wonderful instance of divine favour – that this poor, ignorant girl should be so blessed, for by reading and application she has arrived to that degree of knowledge as to be in the habit of writing and talking with professors and other clever men on the subject, and they all acknowledge that she understands more of the science than anyone else in this kingdom.”

After her death on the 9th of March 1847, her unusual life story attracted the attention of scholars around the world. Her story was the inspiration for the 1908 tongue-twister “She sells seashells on the seashore” by Terry Sullivan and in 2010, one hundred and sixty-three years after her death, the Royal Society included Anning in a list of the ten British women who have most influenced the history of science.

Bring it Home

➤ For younger students, explore the fun games and activities at BBC’s Primary History Famous People: Mary Anning.

➤ Read the article, “Mary Anning: The Fossilist as Exegete” by Thomas W. Goodhue in Endeavour Magazine, March 2005 issue

➤ Build upon your child’s interest in fossils and geology in an in-depth Earth sciences curriculum study.

Geology Rocks➤ Visit a local geology club in your area and inquire about getting started in collecting.

➤ Discover Ice Age Fossils at La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles

 

Science MilestonesVisit my Science Milestones page to learn more about scientists whose discoveries and advancements have made a significant difference in our lives or who have advanced our understanding of the world around us.

Interested in learning about others who were born in the month of January? Hop over to Birthday Lessons in March to read posts by other iHomeschool Network bloggers.

Mythological Secrets of Greece: The Island of Delos

The island of Delos is located near the center of the Cyclades archipelago and is one of the most important mythological, historical, and archaeological sites in Greece. It held had a position as a holy sanctuary for a millennium before Greek mythology and by the time of the Odyssey, the island was already famous as the birthplace of the twin gods Apollo and Artemis.

From our base in Mykonos, we made an excursion to the nearby Delos (just 30 minutes by boat) and spent the day here with a local specialist learning about the history of the small island. Today, it is inhabited only by an antiquity guard and an employee of the Archeological museum and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Delos @EvaVarga.net

Ongoing excavation work takes place under the direction of the French School at Athens and many of the artifacts found are on display here at the Archaeological Museum of Delos as well as on the mainland at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

In the past, Delos was an ancient center of worship – a temple to the twins Apollo (god of the sun, music, and healing) and Artemis (goddess of the moon, maidenhood, and archery). It was here that it is believed Leto gave birth to her children; fathered by Zeus.

Delos, if you would be willing to be the abode of my son Phoebus Apollo and make him a rich temple; for no other will touch you, as you will find: and I think you will never be rich in oxen and sheep, nor bear vintage nor yet produce plants abundantly. But if you have the temple of far-shooting Apollo, all men will bring you hecatombs and gather here, and incessant savour of rich sacrifice will always arise, and you will feed those who dwell in you from the hand of strangers; for truly your own soil is not rich.
 Homeric Hymn to Delian Apollo 51–60

During the Hellenistic period (323 – 30 BC), it became one of the most important center for commerce and religion in Greece. Its inhabitants were wealthy merchants, seafarers and bankers who came from as far as the Middle East. The Romans made it a free port in 167 BC, which brought even greater prosperity to the island. The shift in trade route and the waning interest in ancient religion in the following centuries brought the decline of Delos.

It was fascinating to walk along the streets and homes of ancient Delos. Though not as completely excavated or restored as Pompeii, it is much older. Most fascinating to me were the intact mosaics on the floors; the more elaborate and intricate the design, the more wealthy the home owners. In the House of the Dolphins the atrium mosaic features erodes (winged gods) riding dolphins.

Delos: House of Dionysus floor mosaic @EvaVarga.House of Dionysus

The House of Dionysus was a luxurious 2nd century private house named for the floor mosaic of Dionysus riding a panther. The mosaic depicts the god with outstretched wings and ivy wreath, mounted on a panther with a wreath of vine branches and grapes around its neck. In his right hand the god grasps a thyrsus, a staff crowned with ivy, as if it was a spear.

On the ground, between plants, a kantharos, a wine vessel, another attribute of the god of wine. The wings suggest a Dionysiac daimon, a supernatural being acting as an intermediate between gods and men, rather than the god himself.

The Terrace of Lions

The Terrace of the Lions (pictured at bottom in the collage above) was dedicated to Apollo by the people of Naxos shortly before 600 BCE. Originally there were nine to twelve marble lions guarding the Sacred Way. The lions create a monumental avenue comparable to Egyptian avenues of sphinxes. Today only seven of the original lions remain.

Delos: House of Cleopatra @EvaVarga.netHouse of Cleopatra

The remains of the House of Cleopatra (138 BC), a dwelling of a wealthy merchant family. It was named after the wife of the owner. Headless statues of the owner of the house, Dioscourides and his wife, Cleopatra, are visible here.

The open floor plans of the homes permitted natural light and fresh air to circulate. The city also featured a complex underground sewage system. Located near the theater is a cistern, evidence of the advance water system developed by the ancient inhabitants to overcome the shortage of fresh water supply in the island.

This is the first in a five-day hopscotch exploring the Mythological Secrets of Greece:

The Acropolis & Ancient Athens 

The Island of Mykonos

The Island of Delos (this post)

The Lost City & Paradise in Santorini

Nea & Palea Kameni

Hopscotch-2017-67808

Find more homeschool related topics to explore at the iHomeschool Network’s Homeschool Hopscotch

Our US Constitution: A Scavenger Hunt Activity for Teens

While we were back east, we spent a day in Philadelphia touring the many historical sites. We had arrived just days after Constitution Day – September 17th. We were informed that living history interpreters stand on the step of Independence Hall and read aloud the Constitution just as they had done in 1787. We were bummed to have missed this but a las, travel plans are not always perfect.

us-constitutionThe Constitution of the United States is one of the most important documents ever written. Congress authorized delegates to gather in Philadelphia during the summer of 1787 to address grievances that had emerged since declaring independence from England and recommend changes to the existing charter of government for the 13 states, the Articles of Confederation.

All American HistoryJohn Adams described the Constitutional Convention as “the greatest single effort of national deliberation that the world has ever seen”. It is to this day, a seminal event in the history of human liberty.

To learn more about our nation’s history, I strongly recommend All American History by Celeste Rakes. It is available from Bright Ideas Press in two volumes and includes a student reader, student activity book, and teacher guide. We’ve been working through each chapter as we have prepared for our travels. My kids beg me to read another chapter every few days.

Primary Sources: James Madison

The best way to see into the past and learn about any historical event is with primary sources. These include diaries, letters, newspaper articles, documents, speeches, personal papers, photographs, paintings, and other items created near the time begin studied. They are made by people who have direct, firsthand knowledge of the event.Our United States Constitution: A Scavenger Hunt Activity for Teens @EvaVarga.net

Because many of James Madison’s ideas made their way into the Constitution, he is often referred to as the “Father of the Constitution.” Indeed, he was a driving force of the convention throughout the summer of 1787, and his notes of the deliberations have provided valuable insights into the proceedings.

None of the Constitutional Convention delegates talked to newspaper reporters or other outsiders. Some delegates took notes, but not every day. Even secretary William Jackson’s records were incomplete.

James Madison gave us our only complete primary source. Every day, he sat at the front of the East Room and recorded the day’s events. After the Convention convened, he wrote:

I noted in terms legible and in abbreviations and marks intelligible to myself what was read or spoken by the members; and … I was enabled to write out my daily notes during the session or within a few finishing days after its close … I was not absent a single day, nor more than a … fraction of an hour in any day, so that I could not have lost a single speech, unless a very short one.

US Constitution: Take it Further

The Bill of Rights document states the first ten amendments to the US Constitution. Read through and discuss each amendment with your students. These amendments guarantee the basic freedoms that Americans enjoy today.

Older students should be encouraged to read the US Constitution in an Old World Style design as pictured here. Reading the ornate handscript is not easy though – even for one familiar with cursive lettering. Younger students can use a printed text.

I’ve put together a challenging and fun scavenger hunt with which to encourage your students to read the Constitution. You can download it for free .. I simply request you leave a comment answering, “What historical figure from this era do you most admire?”

Some of America’s best minds created the United States Constitution. Among them were James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Gouverneur Morris, Roger Sherman, James Wilson, and George Washington. Encourage your students to select one of these men and research his contributions to our country and give a presentation.

42 delegates signed the Constitution on the 17th of September 1787. Three refused. Learn more about who these men were and why they abstained.Our United States Constitution: A Scavenger Hunt Activity for Teens @EvaVarga.net

Choose one of the amendments. Write a short speech giving your opinion of the amendment. Tell why you think it is or is not an important right for citizens to have and what life might be like without it.

Visit the Explore the Constitution website where Constitutional experts interact with each other to explore the Constitution’s history and what it means today.

Constitution Day

To commemorate the September 17, 1787 signing of the Constitution of the United States, Congress has designated September 17th of each year as Constitution Day. In 2004, Public Law 108-447, Section 111 was passed requiring the following:

Each educational institution that receives Federal funds for a fiscal year shall hold an educational program on the United States Constitution on September 17 of such year for the students served by the education institution.

Sadly, I don’t recall learning about the Constitution on an annual basis when I was in school. We covered it in US History – but not more than a few times I am sure. How about you?

 

Finding Harry Potter at the MET with Watson Adventures

We rejoiced when Harry Potter and the Cursed Child arrived at our doorstep last month. We had been following the opening of the two-part play in England on social media and anxiously awaited the ne book to be released here in the states on July 31st, Harry Potter’s Birthday.

Anytime we come to the final chapter of a beloved book, we are a little remorseful to say goodbye to our favorite characters. We wanted to continue living in the magical world so beautifully imagined by JK Rowling.

met-watson-adventures
I was provided tickets in exchange for an honest review; please see my disclosure policy for details.

I first learned of Watson Adventures while in San Francisco years ago for Chinese New Year. We had observed several small groups of people racing through Chinatown on an unique scavenger hunt, seeking answers to thoughtful trivia questions. Watching their enthusiasm and hearing their high praise, I tucked the little bit of information away. I knew this was something I wanted to experience.

While planning our itinerary for our East coast holiday, I took a peak at the Watson Adventures website I had earlier pinned to a Pinterest board. Much to my delight, a public scavenger hunt was available during our stay in New York City. There were many hunts to choose from, the difficultly was choosing.

A few of the many Watson Adventures Public Scavenger Hunts in New York:

watson-adventures-metHarry Potter & The Wizard School Scavenger Hunt

When I glimpsed the title, The Wizard School Scavenger Hunt, I knew immediately this was the experience for us. This scavenger hunt would provide us the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of young wizards on a field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in search of works that echo characters, places, and enchanted objects in the famed Harry Potter books and movies. What better way to celebrate, share in the love of the book, and discover the Met?!

The Wizard School Scavenger Hunt is designed for kids and adults to do together, but all-adult teams are allowed to compete separately. Kids must be accompanied by adults. For ages 10 and up.

We joined the The Wizard School Scavenger Hunt on September 17th at the MET in New York City. There were several others teams – both family and adult teams – competing. Two family teams were taking part as a birthday celebration for one of the young participants. We were encouraged to come up with creative team names and the most creative team was awarded bonus points.

I was very impressed with how well Michael and his assistant Shannon organized the teams and explained everything. There were only a few rules – essentially: No running. Teams must stay together. Don’t touch the art. We were given 90 minutes to complete the 24 question quest and we were off!

Fortunately, each team was assigned a different question with which to start. When we did meet other teams along the course, tensions rose. “Oh no! They are catching up with us. We have to hurry!”

Their scavenger hunts use witty, tricky questions in fast-paced games that bring out the best in a fascinating place—and the best in you and your teammates. The hunts are like walking tours spiked with caffeine.

Racing against other family teams, we hunted through the MET for Hagrid-like giants, centaurs, and unicorns that would feel at home in the Forbidden Forest. References to the books provided a surprising bridge to many strange and wonderful works of art. The Cursed Child provided us with new hints and tidbits. Not to worry, there were no spoilers!

The questions weren’t easy, however. One point was awarded for each correct answer (no points off for wrong answers). The team with the highest score wins! There was strong competition and amongst the five family teams competing, the scores ranged from 18-22. We didn’t win the coveted Watson Adventure medal (shown here with the winning family team) but we had a fabulous time. We all agreed we would love to take part in another if we ever get the chance. It was certainly a highlight of our trip.

watson-adventures-winnersTell Me More About Watson Adventures

Bret Watson started creating scavenger hunts in the early ’90s as a way to share his unique take on the lighter side of museums with his friends. Word began to spread and it wasn’t long before Watson Adventures sprung to life.The scavenger hunts are open to the general public on weekends and are available in seven cities:

  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Los Angeles
  • New York City
  • Philadelphia
  • San Francisco
  • Washington DC

Private hunts are also available for large groups just about anywhere. The scavenger hunts are played on teams of up to six people. Advance purchase is required for all hunts. To purchase tickets online, select a city or a hunt and go to the hunt calendar.

 

Falling in Love with Italy: Pisa & Florence

Our destination today is the famous town of Pisa where we explore the Square of Miracles, featuring the Leaning Tower, Cathedral and Baptistery. We then head to Florence, birthplace of the Renaissance where we visit the Academie de Arte to view Michelangelo’s David. Along the way, we observed ancient Roman aqueducts from our coach; I even managed to catch a decent photo with my iPhone (below).

pisa and florence

Tip: Click on the links of the notable sights to enjoy a photo sphere in Google maps, a 360-degree panorama.

Pisa

We departed for Pisa immediately after breakfast as usual. Upon our arrival we observed the usual roadside vendors selling kitschy tourist souvenirs. When we entered the square, I was surprised by the size of the area surrounding the tower. For some reason, I had always pictured in my mind the tower surrounding by other buildings in congested metropolitan area. I had not expected the  large green open spaces. Fortunately, these were roped off to confine the crowds to the pathways. The crowds were so intense the grass would otherwise not grow.

leaning tower pisaThe first structure we came to from this entrance was the Baptistry (pictured in the bottom photo above) – a large dome topped circular building. The cathedral was in between the Baptistry and the Leaning Tower. This Unesco World Heritage Site, Piazza del Duomo di Pisa, is unique. The tower was impressive indeed. Like many other visitors, we did our best to take a creative photo despite the crowds.

installation art pisaWe were afforded little free time here, not enough to wait in queue to climb the stairs of the tower but enough to capture photos and enjoy the architecture. As a result, we chose to dine quickly, choosing a McDonalds – trusting in free public restrooms and wifi. It’s also fun to compare menus. We still reminisce about the delicious black & white burgers and teriyaki rice wraps we had in China. Patrick and I both tried the McLobster sandwich and were pleased.

Tuscan Hills

We then proceeded to the heart of the Renaissance, which we discovered was a signifiant distance. We thereby arrived at our hotel, Art Gallery, late in the afternoon. We had very little time to freshen up before we needed to join our group again for the option Tuscan Hills Dinner at Villa Machiavelli.

florence vineyardThe drive to the villa was very scenic, through the Chianti hills, past vineyards and sunflower fields (sadly, they were no longer in bloom). The ancient stone house of Machiavelli was perched a top a small hill and was overlooked by an imposing castle across the vineyard. It was here that the political theorist wrote his immortal, The Prince.

After a toast of blue champagne, a living history interpreter portraying Machiavelli’s spouse, led us on a tour of his home including the wine cellar. The meal and our dinner companions were wonderful – one of the most memorable evenings of our stay in Italy. As we dined on tapas of cheese, bruschetta, ravioli, and gnocchi, we enjoyed three different wines (each paired to a specific dish). My favorite was the Volare, a pinot grigio and pompelmo rosa blend.

A musical trio – violinist, guitarist, and a vocalist – provided us with entertainment. Prime Rib was the main course and it was served with yet another wine. Everything was so very delicious. I had a fabulous time! We even purchased a case of wine to commemorate our evening.

Florence

The next morning, the itinerary included a walking tour of Florence. Giuseppe gave a short overview of the morning, detailing for the first time to the group that we would see the location where Michelangelo’s David had initially been located but that the original had been replaced with a bronze replica. The marble statue had been moved to the Academie de Arte. We (along with a couple from Colorado) had informed our guide early on that we were going to try our luck and get tickets to see David opting to forgo the walking tour.

He tried to talk us out of it initially but upon discovering how important it was to us, agreed to try to pull a few strings. I didn’t expect him to follow through – he had seemed unmotivated. Much to our surprise, he not only got us tickets in advance but we were able to skip the lines entirely, jumping in with another tour group. He asked only that we didn’t say anything to the others in the group and we slipped away as the group walked past the academy.

davidMichelangelo’s David

Upon entering the gallery in which David was the centerpiece, chills ran up my spine. I had never before been so moved by a piece of art. It was incredibly beautiful. I was amazed at the detail – the veins of David’s hands, his toenails, his muscles, his shoulders. Perfection. Photographs do not do it any justice.

At the Galleria del Academie de Arte, we also enjoyed several other sculptures by Michelangelo – some unfinished – in addition to a large gallery of busts and smaller works by less familiar artists. The museum obviously attracts a lot of attention because of the David, but the rest is a lot of religious art which is great but you really have to be into religious art.

Of most interest to us was Marco Polo’s bible – though many of the pages had begun to deteriorate, the text was still legible and the illuminations vibrant. Jeffrey was most interested in several volumes of illuminated works that looked like hymnals. dante florencePiazza de Saint Croce

When we completed our self-guided tour of the museum, we headed to the Piazza de Saint Croce, one of the main plazas or squares located in the central neighborhood of Florence. Here we were to meet the rest of the group. Along the way, we did a little shopping and took several photos by the Ponte Vecchio – a Medieval stone closed-spandrel segmental arch bridge over the Arno River. It is noted for still having shops built along it, as was once common.

florence duomo

Florence Cathedral 

As we continued on our way to the piazza, we came across theand the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (the main church of Florence). Il Duomo di Firenze, as it is ordinarily called, was begun in 1296 in the Gothic style with the design of Arnolfo di Cambio. It was so grande that we had difficulty getting a decent photograph.

The exterior of the basilica is faced with marble panels in various shades of green and pink bordered by white, an elaborate 19th-century Gothic Revival façade. The complex includes the Baptistery and Giotto’s Campanile are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site covering the historic centre of Florence. The the dome was once the largest in the world and remains the largest brick dome ever constructed.

Dante

Once we reached the piazza, we got a quick bite to eat at a cafe and wandered about the piazza to pass the time. Here we observed the statue of Dante, a major Italian poet of the Late Middle Ages. His Divine Comedy is widely considered the greatest literary work composed in the Italian language and a masterpiece of world literature.

@ @ @

This concludes my Falling in Love with Italy hopscotch. I am planning another series in October to share our experiences in Greece.

Hopscotch-August2016My post is one of many hopscotch link-ups. Hop over and see what others are sharing.