Family Tree Lesson Plans

Genealogy in the Classroom

Family tree lesson plans help teachers and students bring history to life, through the important steps and principles of family history research. These genealogy lesson plans help teachers and students trace their family tree, understand immigrant origins, explore history in the cemetery, discover world geography and investigate genetics.

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Getty / Diane Collins and Jordan Hollender
Find and create interactive learning activities for your students with primary source documents that promote historical thinking skills. The website provides ready-to-use tools for teaching with documents in the classroom, as well as thousands of primary source documents selected from the National Archives to help you tailor the lesson to your students.

Little House in the Census & Other Lesson Plans from the National Archives

The U.S. National Archives & Records Administration offers dozens of lesson plans from all eras of U.S. history, complete with documents. One popular example is the Little House in the Census lesson plan, with pages from the 1880 and 1900 census schedules, teaching activities, and links related to the family of author Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Ancestors Teachers Guide

This free guide was developed in conjunction with the Ancestors television series from PBS to help teachers and students in grades 7-12 actively discover their ancestors. It introduces important steps and principles of genealogy research, and provides family history assignments.

History Hunters Cemetery Tour

This elementary lesson plan makes an interesting field trip to the local cemetery or is easily adaptable to a regular classroom setting when exploring topics in state and local history. From the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Design Your Own Coat of Arms Lesson Plan

This lesson plan, most easily adapted to an Art or Social Studies curriculum, introduces students the history of a Coat of Arms and some traditional heraldic designs, by encouraging them to design their own Coat of Arms and then interpret each other's designs.

All in the Family: Discover Relatives & Genetic Connections

In this lesson from the New York Times, students develop family genealogy charts in search of noticeable genetic relationships between relatives.

Climbing the Family Tree - A Jewish Genealogy Lesson Plan

This lesson plan/lecture outline by Yigal Rechtman introduces Jewish genealogy myths and methods for reconstructing an ancestor's life, with accompanying teachers notes. The scope includes both genealogy in the United States, as well as Jewish genealogy in Eastern Europe.

Cemeteries are Historical, Not Solely Grave

The New York Times shares a Social Studies or Language Arts lesson examining graveyards as historical sites for students in grades 6-12.

Listening to History

This lesson plan from Edsitement is designed to help students explore oral history by conducting interviews with family members. Recommended for students in grades 6-8.

Coming to America - Immigration Builds a Nation

Discover the United States all over again as you introduce your students to the two major waves of immigration that brought 34 million people to our nation's shores and spurred the greatest period of national change and growth. Part of a series of lesson plans from EducationWorld.

Planning a School or Community Archives

Practical suggestions from The Montana Heritage Project on establishing and maintaining a school or community archives or historical collection. An excellent school or district-wide project.

History in the Heartland: Lesson Plans

Classroom activities from History in the Heartland, a project of Ohio State University and the Ohio Historical Society, offers dozens of lesson plans and primary source document activities based on Ohio Social Studies Academic Content Standards. Several are related to genealogy and immigration.

Genealogy: Coming to America

This free lesson plan, just one of many created by, focuses on Ida McKinley's great grandparents who emigrated from England, Scotland and Germany prior to the opening of Ellis Island. In this lesson, students will learn about the history of their family as it relates to the history of the United States and the world.

The Third Grader's 1850 Census

This suggested project by Michael John Neill uses a family group chart to explore the census and to interpret old handwriting. The exercise leads to map reading and ends with more genealogy exercises for children.

This is Your Life

In this set of three activities, students in grades 7-12 create family trees, interview a family member, and share childhood treasures.

The Valley of the Shadow

The Valley of the Shadow: Two Communities in the American Civil War by historian Edward L. Ayers of the University of Virginia allows students to compare and contrast a Northern town with a Southern one before, during, and after the Civil War.

What is History? Timelines & Oral History

To understand that history is made up of many people’s stories of the past, students interview family members about the same event and compare the different versions, construct a personal history timeline and connect it to larger historical events, and synthesize eyewitness testimony from different sources to create their own “official” account. Grades K-2.

Where I Come From

Students take research into their heritage a step beyond the construction of a family tree in this Edsitement lesson, traveling through cyberspace to find our what's happening in their ancestral homelands today. Grades 3-5.

U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services – Lesson Plans & Activities

USCIS offers lesson plans with instructions and teaching strategies for novice and seasoned ESL instructors preparing students for U.S. citizenship, including interactive games and activities.

Tracing Immigrant Ancestors

This assignment is designed to teach students the concept of immigration and how to connect events in history with the movement of their ancestors, as well as develop a better understanding of the United States as a melting pot. Appropriate for grades 5-11.

UK National Archives - Resources for Teachers

Designed for teachers, this online resource is designed to tie in with the History National Curriculum from Key Stages 2 to 5 and contains a varied range of sources, lessons and tutorials from the holdings of the Public Records Office in the UK.

My Piece of History

Students examine pictures of household objects from the late 20th century, gather historical information about them from older family members, and then create an in-class exhibit of historical objects from their own homes. Grades K-2.

Library and Archives Canada - For Teachers

Lesson plans, teacher resources and more from Library & Archives Canada to help students appreciate their own personal past by identifying significant people, places and events.