“Homeplace” by Ann Shelby – Three Ways for Kids to Experience Their Ancestor’s Homeplace
The story is about a family who lives in the same place and takes care of the family farm for several generations. They feel a close connection with the land and the home. Kids love to feel that same connection to their grandparents and ancestors.
Here are three ways you can help kids experience their ancestor’s homeplace:
Look at Pictures of Ancestors’ Homes
You may have some photos of your ancestor’s homes in your photo collection. What, you thought those were boring? Useless? No way! If your relatives kept photos of homes and places they lived, it could mean that place was special and memorable. Find out the story behind the house and share it with your child.
This is the home that my great grandfather Edward Kelsey built in Burley, Idaho. When his fiancée took the train to join him in Burley, this is the home she was greeted with. It must have been shocking for a city girl to live in a tiny one room cabin.
Kids can draw a picture of the home by looking at the photo. If you don’t have any photos of ancestors’ homes, use illustrations or photos from the time period to get an idea of what homes looked like when your ancestor lived there.
A website called WhatWasThere lets you search a world map tagged with photos from the past. It’s a budding resource for seeing what places used to look like. You can contribute to their project by uploading your own photos (yes, there really is something you can do with those house pictures!). You’ll need the address of the place the photo was taken or be able to approximate it on the map.
Find Ancestors’ Homes on Google Maps
You may have the address of your ancestor’s home from a census record or from a relative who knew the location. Find the address on Google Maps and let your child zoom in and out and play with the map online. They can switch to google earth view, to map view, to street view.
My son loves drawing maps. If you print the map showing your ancestor’s home, they can trace it. Or you can map the route from their home to your home and talk about how close or far they lived from you.
Visit Ancestors’ Homes
For our Dyer reunion a few years ago, we visited Sanford and Alamosa, Colorado. Our Dyer ancestors moved there in 1897. Over 100 of the reunion attendees caravanned to the old Dyer Homestead in Sanford. We took a wrong turn, parked along a canal road, and waited while the leader of the caravan figured out where to go. We finally ended up in front of an old, dilapidated home where the Dyers farmed during the summer. The kids especially enjoyed exploring the place.
We saved the location of the home to our GPS unit. Now that we use google maps on our phones instead of our old GPS unit, I saved the location to my google map account.
My mom wrote about our family’s experiences visiting the house that her great grandfather built. As a teenager, I found it fascinating to visit this home. It felt like such unique piece of history that I was actually part of.
How have you experienced the homeplaces of your ancestors?