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Students Learn About Their Ancestors Through Library Project

Persell Middle School students, Ella Demorest, McKenna Schneider and Jillian Overbeck-Thompson look at Ella's family photo book she created as part of the family project with Prendergast Library Director Tina Scott.

Persell Middle School seventh and eighth graders discovered more about their ancestors through a unique project with Library Media Specialist Becky Luhman. The three-month project involved: a family tree of four generations (student, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents), two family interviews transcripts, an audio recording and a choice element (cookbook, scrapbook/photo book, military research, family stories, ancestry/family game, time capsule, family artifacts or a timeline of events in ancestor’s life).

“I came up with the idea for the project as a way to get families involved in their learning,” said Mrs. Luhman. “This project requires kids to talk to their parents and grandparents about what they already know about their family history. It is important for students to have researching skills for this project because they are using a database that is a warehouse of family information based on what they know about their ancestors and where they lived. Students have to compare the information in their trees with the information contained in a record and determine if it is their ancestor.”

Students discovered immigration and census records and World War I & II draft cards that listed their ancestors and also gave family information. Also, they found user-submitted family trees and photos, which helped them to grow their tree and have photos that they might not otherwise have for the project.

“My family started in Ireland, moved to Canada and then to Buffalo,” said Persell seventh grader McKenna Schneider. “My mom had an Ancestry.com account and signed me up too. I also found information from photos that my aunt emailed me. My great-grandmother had 15 kids. I think a project like this helps you better understand research because it’s actually a hands-on project. I liked doing the interviews with my dad and grandma and compare them to the historic information I found on-line.”

Mrs. Luhman invited Prendergast Library Director, Tina Scott, to come in and speak to the students about Ancestry.com and the type of information that could be found and resources at the library. She also shared the AncestryDNA and how it can open other avenues in their family research. Mrs. Scott came back to see the final project/products.

“This project has been a lot of fun to work with the kids on,” said Mrs. Scott. “We didn’t learn this when I was young and I think it’s great because it might create a spark in someone to keep researching their family. The kids came up with awesome projects. You can tell they put a lot of time and work into them. I am so impressed.”

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