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Genealogy and Family History

Youth Corner

Genealogy at School

5th to 8th Grades

A Journey Through Time!

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[PDF 46 KB], [RTF 500 KB]

A complete lesson plan for students to learn more about conducting genealogical research on the challenges that their ancestors and others experienced during their immigration to Canada and their migration within Canada.


This lesson plan takes into account social sciences and history curriculum requirements from each province and territory. It proposes activities for culturally diverse groups, which can be modified to address curriculum requirements for younger and older age groups by adapting the level of overall expectations.

Learning Outcomes and Overall Expectations

While completing genealogical research using primary and secondary sources, students develop knowledge and skills to:

  • conduct research using a systematic approach;
  • understand why people leave their country of origin and why they choose Canada as their new home;
  • comprehend the migrations of ancient cultures within Canada and why they choose to relocate to a certain place within Canada;
  • appreciate the challenges their ancestors and other Canadians faced during the migratory experience;
  • see how immigrants/Aboriginal Peoples have contributed to the development of Canada;
  • maintain a research log and a research organizer to track their findings and keep good records of their research;
  • navigate computer software to complete online activities and use the Internet to perform research;
  • improve critical thinking through genealogical activities;
  • acquire and use appropriate terminology associated with genealogy, immigration and migration;
  • communicate research results to a specific audience.

Learning Activities

This lesson plan contains four main learning activities and four supplemental classroom activities. A fictional, animated character named EuGENEus guides the students through specific learning sessions. EuGENEus provides context, instructions and tips.

It is possible to do each activity independently but the most effective approach is to do the activities in sequence, with each exercise building on the preceding one. An online glossary provides word definitions for students. The evaluation rubric is used to assess knowledge and skill acquisition.

The student handout can be printed and distributed to students to complete on paper. Students will need a computer terminal to do the three other interactive activities. They can also be printed and completed on paper.

Supplemental Classroom Learning Activities

Our Place in the World

In this activity, students situate on a large world map their ancestor's places of origin and where they have lived in Canada. Students write their names on stickers and place them in the appropriate areas. A special sticker can be placed on the map to show the local community where the students actually live. Different coloured stickers can be used to differentiate between countries of origin and places of migration. Note that when the map is finished, certain areas will have stickers that overlap while others will only have one or two. This can prompt a discussion in class about the immigration/migration patterns in your community.

Make it easier
Complete the activity as a class. Make two lists—one of all the countries in the world that students and their ancestors come from, and one of all the places in Canada where students and their ancestors have lived. Students can take turns finding the country or place and labelling it with a sticker to make it stand out.

Make it a challenge
If you wish to use the map to show when your students' ancestors came to Canada or migrated within Canada, you can use a different coloured or shaped sticker for each of the ten time periods featured in the online activity "Pack Up and Go!" or for each of the three main time periods provided in the online activity "Migration Challenge!" The students can then see where and when their families and ancestors lived.

Challenges of a New Home

In groups, students discuss the impact of the migratory experience on new immigrants and original inhabitants during a specific time period in Canadian history. They combine the information obtained through their research and the online activities with what they have learned in class. Each group of students produces an arts project (mural, play, song) that illustrates one of the aspects discussed. The projects can then be presented in class.

Make it easier
Each student creates a drawing, writes a poem, or combines writing and drawing to show the difficulties faced by either an ancestor or an individual who immigrated or migrated during the time period being studied in class. The work can be shared with another classmate or the entire class.

Make it a challenge
Each student conducts research on an immigrant or migrant from the past or interviews a present-day immigrant or migrant; the student then writes an article about that person's migratory experience. These stories can be added to the class presentations or displayed for others to share.

Wall of Fame

In this activity, all the students in the class contribute to a display. Each student or pair of students conducts research on an immigrant or Aboriginal person from a specific time period who made a significant contribution to Canada and the world. Completed biographies along with sketches or photographs, if possible, are displayed on a bulletin board or school wall.

Make it easier
Students create a personalized cube about an immigrant or Aboriginal person from a specific time period who made a significant contribution to Canada and the world. Each face of the cube illustrates different aspects of the person's life (e.g., important contribution, personal data, sketch or photograph, facts about Canada in this time period, etc.)

Make it a challenge
Students play the role of an immigrant or migrant who made a significant contribution to Canada. After sufficient research, they introduce themselves to their classmates and talk about their contribution. Option: In the same role, they write a postcard to another person or group from the same time period, telling them about their contribution. To increase the level of difficulty, students can illustrate their contribution on the front of their postcard.

Push and Pull Factors

This activity reinforces the concept of push and pull factors introduced in the student handout. Students share their research findings on why their relatives left their home countries to come to Canada or why they moved from one location in Canada to another. This activity can be done in small groups and the results shared with the entire class.

Make it easier
Prepare a list of push and pull factors in no particular order. In small groups, students identify push and pull factors. For example, the potato famine is a push factor which caused people to leave Ireland. Some general factors, such as freedom, should be included in the list so that the students see that determining a push or pull factor depends on the example given. For example, people leave a country that does not allow them to practice the religion of their choice (push factor) and they move to a country that does (pull factor).

Make it a challenge
Create a tally sheet to record how many times a push or pull factor is given by a different group or by students within a group. As a class, look for emerging patterns which could explain the movement of the students and their ancestors to and within Canada.

Professional Development Opportunity

The Genealogy and Family History Web site has many resources to help individuals learn more about genealogy. On the main site menu, consult "How To" to access information on the subject.

Visit the ARCHIVED - Learning Centre to discover other educational resources.