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Genealogy and Non-Traditional Families

This question relates to the retired Family Stories Adventure and Project Family Adventure, but it still has useful information about any discussion involving family relationships.

Jerri wrote in with this question about genealogy and non-traditional families:

How do you do this genealogy achievement when you have children from non-traditional families? We have a foster child who does not know about his parents, one being raised by grandparents that aren’t biological (but at 8 isn’t aware of that fact), one that is being raised by his father and has no knowledge of his mother who gave him up at birth, etc, etc, etc.

Is there a way to do this genealogy thing without bringing up things that might hurt these children, or that they are too young to know? It seems that there are so many children being brought up by other people nowdays that there should be a way around this achievement. They are only 8 and I am not sure they need to know at the age about the sins of their parents (so to speak).

I would appreciate any ideas on this subject from anyone in the same situation. We have a great group of scouts looking and working hard towards their Bear badge. But we run into roadblocks like this one and don’t know what to do.

I should also add that I found your site when we were brand new Tigers (with No clue whatsoever, but a huge amount of “want-to” and “will-do”), and I bow to your knowledge and commitment. We copy your ideas and use them extensively, as does our entire pack now. Thank you for sharing with all of us, your ideas help us help these little boys become the men that we know they will become; and help us help them become the Scouts that make all of us proud.

Ideas for Genealogy and Non-Traditional Families

Jerri, thanks for your dedication and for considering the needs of your Scouts.  Ask them who they consider “family”. Explain that family doesn’t always require a biological connection. A family can be defined by loving and caring for each other.  You might need to adjust according to the specifics. For example, if you want to talk about relationships and a family tree, instead of giving them a traditional family tree “form” to fill out, let them make a more free form representation of the important people in their lives.

Sometimes fewer instructions are better. If they want to go with a more traditional tree model, it is OK to add extra branches and shoots. When we did this with my den, we had a couple of kids with step-parents and step-siblings on both sides and they seemed to figure out how to add them in without any advice from me at all.

Readers, if you have any other ideas about how to handle  and non traditional families, please add your comments about genealogy and non-traditional families at the bottom of the post. And read the comments. Some readers have already added some great ideas.

Related Resources for Genealogy and Non-Traditional Families

Genealogy Merit Badge for Boy Scouts

Genealogy Merit Badge Helps and Documents

Scouts working on the Genealogy merit badge learn about their family heritage. They explore the many ways to research information about their ancestors and where they came from. Scouts will appreciate their family history and learn how this can lead them to delve deeper into their cultural roots.

Faith and Our Ancestors Game

The Faith and Our Ancestors Game is an icebreaker activity with a genealogy twist. Players ask each other questions about how they think their ancestors lived.


7 responses to “Genealogy and Non-Traditional Families”

  1. Christine Avatar

    I would explain genealogy as a map of who you are biologically related to, but that doesn’t always mean that is your family. They can make their family tree about the people they consider family.

  2. Beth Latshaw Avatar
    Beth Latshaw

    In the family trees that we made in my science class, I had the students use dotted lines instead of solid lines to denote non biological connections. As far as split families the child is connected to both biological parents and marriages were denoted by lines between the parents.
    (Mary married to John- had child Marita with an unknown father (if she was adopted by John, I would add in dotted lines from Marita to John, but keep solid line between Mary and Marita), Jake is son to John and Lisa, Lisa remarried to Joe and had son Jr.

    Mary—John Lisa—-Joe
    1 1 ____1 1
    Marita Jake Jr.

    1. Beth Latshaw Avatar
      Beth Latshaw

      Sorry spacing on the tree did not work.

  3. Donna Avatar

    Have them check online pedigrees for individuals with the same surname as theirs. Instead of beginning their pedigree with themself, they can begin the pedigree with anyone further back. We often use this plan to help children/youth who are under court supervision. This helps them to see there is “life” beyond their current circumstances.

  4. Kellie Avatar

    My mother remarried when I was a child and her husband adopted me. When he adopted me he became my father. He is my dad and my children’s grandfather. He is on my son’s family tree along with his parents (we did 4 generations). I think for this age the family tree should be about who they consider family even if they aren’t biological relatives.

    I love your website. I use it all the time to plan my meetings. Thank you!

  5. Laura Avatar

    I thought I would throw out the idea that we’ve used… Instead of a tree we used circles… so the inner most circle was immediate family (those people that live within the deepest parts of our hearts), then the next circle was family we love but don’t see/think of daily.. and so forth and so forth out and out… church family was included in one and “Framily” (friends who might as well be family)… it allowed children to include everyone and showed how they were all connected.

  6. Joanne Drake Avatar
    Joanne Drake

    My husband’s mother, “B” died within three days of his “A” birth. One sister “C” of his mother adopted him. Another sister “D” of his mother married his father “E.” His adopted mother “C” was his aunt, making her birth children his first cousins, “XYZ,” as well as adopted siblings. His father “E” aunt “D” had children who were also his first cousins, “LMN,” as well as his half siblings. His aunt, “D,” by marrying his father “E,” became his stepmother. His father, “E,” by marrying his aunt, “D,” became his uncle. Did all that make him his own cousin???? You probably can top that story, but I defy anyone to make a chart of it all!

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