Family History is for Everyone: Becky Villareal, Teacher and Children’s Book Author
When should a child start to learn about their family’s history? Nicole and I believe it’s never too early. We are passionate about sharing family history with children and love to meet other’s who share our sentiments. We recently connected with retired elementary school teacher and author, Becky Villareal, who has written a series of children’s books aimed at interesting them in learning about their families.
I recently read Becky’s charming first book, Gianna the Great. A former 4th grade teacher, I pictured students reading the story and being inspired to start their own genealogy journeys. The Gianna series includes:
Gianna the Great
Gianna Begins Her Journey
Gianna Saldaña wants to know about her ancestors but she will have to join an after school history club to do it. Now she is about to embark on a journey that will change everything she knows about her family. (Released by Anaiah Press March 2015)
The Journey Continues
Halito means hello in Choctaw but Gianna was not to find that out for a long time. This feisty young girl discovers more about her family than she ever envisioned and can’t wait to share what she has found out! Come along for the journey!
Gianna the Treasure Hunter
In Gianna the Treasure Hunter, Gianna helps her friend Stephanie find out about her family as well by delving into the Ellis Island Records and recording her grandmother’s story.
What inspired Becky to write what has now become a series of books? When did she start researching her own family? Here is Becky’s story.
How did you get started in family history? Do you remember an initial “spark” or incident that inspired you? Did you have any experiences as a child/teen in school or at home that helped you be more inclined toward family history? When I asked my mother about her family, she knew so little that I became determined to find out as much as I could for her.
What mentors influenced you to get started in family history and genealogy research? My mother had grown up thinking her father had passed away when she was a child. But, in truth, he lived until she was in her sixties when a cousin happened across the family information in Columbus, Georgia. By the time we found out he’d been alive all that time, he had passed away six months earlier. So she was never able to spend any time with him.
What personality traits, hobbies, or professional pursuits have helped you in your genealogy research? As a teacher and writer, I was always doing research of one kind or another. But I found history, especially family history, to be very intriguing.
Why do you do genealogy? Why do you think it’s important? I am pursuing genealogical research to find out more about the characteristics in the family that seem to be genetic. My grandfather and his brothers were all musicians and even though we didn’t know any of them, my son majored in music in school and was interested in music since he was a baby. He could even keep a beat with his rattle while listening to music. I also want family members to realize what a rich history our family has on my mother’s and father’s side.
What is the most rewarding part of researching your family’s history? The most rewarding part of this research was when I found out we had cousins who lived in a town close by. I was able to take my mother and brother to meet them and to find out more about that side of the family. We received pictures and information that was invaluable and also I was able to see the physical characteristics that were so similar.
What has been the most difficult part of your genealogical journey? The most difficult part of this journey is finding out about my father’s side of the family. The records from Mexico were not always available. However, now with the baptismal and wedding records coming out, it has been an easier journey.
What are your research interests? I am interested in finding out more about the part of my family who were Choctaw and Cherokee and also find out if my father’s family can be traced back to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain.
How do you preserve your family history? I have written a book that I have given out to family members about our family. Of course, it is only a partial history and goes on to this day.
What is your favorite way to share genealogy and family history with others? I love sharing family history orally and giving out copies of the family trees to the individuals on special occasions. The individual is the home person in these creations.
If you had all the time in the world to spend on family history, what would you do? I would travel to all the locations and get as much information about the family as I possibly could.
What’s the best discovery you’ve made about your family? The best discovery is that I can trace my roots back to Antonio Molina who worked with Thomas Jefferson on the vineyards they planted and qualify to be a member of the Daughter of the American Revolution.
Who is your most interesting ancestor? The most interesting ancestor is my great-grandmother. Her family came across the country in covered wagons and left written accounts of their family history. (She also shot and killed her husband who mistreated her. In 1910 it was amazing how the press and the judge treated this case.)
After my father had his first heart attack, I gave both my parents recorders, tapes, and lots of batteries so they could record their memories. These tapes have been such a blessing now that they are both gone. Their memories and history lives on and can be passed down to family members. I also have documents they have created and journals of my own where I recorded their memories.
After teaching for twenty-three years, I retired but now work in the schools presenting parts of my books and sharing family trees for the children to complete. I also work with the local libraries and genealogical societies to create Family History events. Whenever I see families working together to find out about their common history I feel like that is my ultimate goal.
Thanks, Becky for sharing your books and your story with us!
Connect with Becky:
- WordPress: https://giannathegreat.wordpress.com
- Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/villarealbeck
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/beckyreads
- SCBWI: https://www.scbwi.org/members-public/becky-villareal
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/bvillareal
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/multiculturalgenealogy/
- Google+: https://plus.google.com/+BeckyVillarealbeckyreadbooks/posts
- Pinterest: https://pintrest.com/beckyreadsbooks
- Youtube Halito Gianna: https://youtu.be/dSCHQ6az00U
- Youtube Gianna the Treasure Hunter: https://youtu.be/w0lJVDcSLFA
Inspiring story and interview! I need to share these stories with my daughter so she will encourage her girls to get interested in their family history.
Thanks for reading, Wendy. You never know what will kindle an interest in a child. I hope the books will be a good resource for your daughter!
I’ve flagged this one for future reference!
Great! I hope you enjoy the books.
What a good idea, Diana. Becky’s family will thank her (and you) for years to come!
I love the ideas behind these books! I was lucky to be interested in genealogy when I was a child, and I collected lots of information and some stories from my grandparents before they passed away. I’m hoping to keep my children and nephews interested in the family history as well!
Your idea of working with libraries to interest children in genealogy inspires me. Grade school children enjoy learning about family history. I was a curious eight-year-old girl when I discovered my Grandpa Johnny writing on a massive piece of paper. It stretched across a table to seat twelve and still hung off the sides to puddle on the floor. I was fascinated. That day, I began my own ancestry research, fifty-five years later, I continue to discover family.
So many genealogists got their start as young children! Thanks for sharing your story.