In September, my husband and I were blessed to visit New England—a long-sought after vacation. I had learned a few of my ancestors arrived in America on the 1620 Mayflower, settling in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Eventually a number of my ancestors settled in Watertown, and some in Ipswich. I wanted to see and learn more about the area where they lived.
For me, the highlights of our trip included a tour of Plymouth and the Plimoth Plantation and a visit to the Old Burying Ground in Watertown, where many of my ancestors are buried.
Two of my Mayflower ancestors were John Howland and his wife Elizabeth Tilley. The only house standing in Plymouth where the Mayflower passengers lived is the Howland house. As we toured that home, I tried to picture my ancestors living there and what their lives were like in that environment.
Plymouth Plantation is a living history museum that exhibits the original settlement of the Plymouth Colony established by the English colonists who immigrated to America to avoid religious persecution. In the 1627 English Village section of the museum, interpreters have been trained to speak, act, and dress appropriately for the period.
Alongside the settlement is a re-creation of a Wampanoag homesite, where modern Native People from a variety of nations (not in period character, but in traditional dress) explain and demonstrate how the Wampanoag’s ancestors lived and interacted with the settlers.
From our tour of Plymouth and our visit to the Plymouth Plantation, I got to see what the countryside was like where my ancestors lived, what chores they had to do, how they dressed, cooked, and slept. More importantly, I felt an attachment to them and to their purpose of living close to their Father in Heaven and developing strength of faith in their families.
Nowhere did I feel that closeness stronger than at the Old Burying Ground in Watertown, Massachusetts. Because of my work on Family Search, I knew the names of most individuals remembered there in stone-carved epitaphs.
I was in awe to learn more about my ancestors’ courage, industry, and stamina, and I wanted to share some of what I learned with my grandchildren so they might appreciate their roots. After all, don’t we attempt to program our grandchildren for success by noticing their good works and reminding them they are strong and worthy? We want to inspire them to know they are more capable than they ever thought possible. What better way is there than to connect our grandchildren with the heroes of their family’s past?
Of course we can verbally tell them the stories. But some people gain more visually than through hearing. Here is an idea for a printed version a grandchild could read over and over, one that is personalized by including his or her name linked with family heroes of the past.
With the Thanksgiving season upon us, I chose to take some of what I learned about our ancestors and put it in a small, easy-to-print pamphlet that I could mail to each of my grandchildren. I included pictures from our trip to Plymouth, personalized name buttons, and a story that concludes with that child’s name—“Xavier, you have courage like John Howland,” or “Ashlee, you are courageous like Elizabeth Tilley.”
Another idea is to make up a family match game. You could use duplicate photos of members of your family. Laminate them and cut them in a pre-designed card size. As photos are matched up, the individual who made the match could say why they are thankful for that member of the family.
You could even throw in a few matched cards for a particular holiday or season and rotate them, depending on the time of year of your family gathering, like a pair of turkeys at Thanksgiving time or hearts at Valentines. Cards could be made that included words instead of pictures like, “Grandma loves you.” Or you could add duplicate images of your family code of arms or a few pairs of pictures of ancestors and tell their stories when the pictures are matched up.
Another possibility is to make a themed match game, such as duplicate pictures of the various Latter-day Saint temples around the world with the theme of gratitude. When playing this game with your grandchildren, you can explain why you and your spouse chose to marry in a particular temple and the story surrounding your courtship and marriage.
If you choose to have lettering on the cards and the game is for young children, be sure to use simple fonts that are easy to read, no fancy, hard-to-decipher script.
You can use photos, draw graphics, use free online clipart, or use card computer software to prepare your card pictures. One avenue I am enjoying is to use digi art ordered online. (That is how I got the little turkey image above. I used www.grannyenchanted.com which led me to http://daisiesanddimples.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=8_135&products_id=5939.) Yes, it costs a small amount of money, but it is easy to find whatever theme you are looking for.
Every one of us has a number of heroes in our family. One may have fought for religious freedom, another for his or her country’s independence. We may know of a family hero or heroine who developed a talent or skill that made a positive difference in saving lives (physically or emotionally). Or we may have someone in our family who is a model of kindness, generosity, and/or honesty.
Do we talk about our ancestry (or current-time heroes) and what they gave up to choose the right? When we share real-life stories with our grandchildren, we empower them to stand up to their own challenges, for they recognize those strong character traits to be a part of themselves. We teach them that those traits of courage, kindness, and integrity run through their veins!
Fay A. Klingler is the author of the best-selling book The LDS Grandparents’ Idea Book, I Am Strong! I Am Smart! and many other books and articles (www.fayklingler.com). She can be contacted on her Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/FayKlingler.