Recently in my Year 9 English class, we have been studying a picture book called MY PLACE by Nadia Wheatley and Donna Rawlins. It tells the story of the owners of a piece of land through the decades, beginning at 1988 and going back every ten years to 1788. Each story is told from the point of view of the child living there at the time. I had the students choose a character and work out his/her family tree from the story. The next task was for them to find out a bit about their own family history. As usual, I was the only person enthusiastic about the task and most of the students “forgot” to ask at home for information. I persevered until almost the whole class had some information to put on their family tree sheet. Reluctantly they started to put in the information. I put some of my family tree on the board and told a few little stories about some of my ancestors. There was a bit of interest. Then one student, put his hand up and said “oh my great-grandfather was in charge of building the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground)” and my response was “Wow! That’s something!”. So another student put his hand up and mumbled that his family were the first aviators in Australia! Yet another put his hand up and said “my ancestor on my father’s side was one of the policeman who shot Ned Kelly”!!!

The following day, almost every student had their family tree filled for at least 3 generations and many had a story to tell. One girl brought in two big thick books put together by a relative years ago. It had her full family history – hand written – complete with certificates and documents. Other students had old photos. A couple of the students asked if they could have a blank family tree sheet from the ones I had made up as they and their parents wanted to look into it more deeply and do it properly. A few students said that their parents had decided to contact long lost relatives and find out more about their own family history.

After all the initial grumbles when I first asked them to bring in information to the end result when everyone was engaged in stories and wandering around looking at each other’s family trees, I decided it was a worthwhile task. And perhaps we have some unlikely future genealogists in the next generation!

Happy researching!