- Where do we come from?
- Where did our parents and grandparents come from?
- How many of our relatives have moved to other countries?
This activity invites participants to explore
their genealogical trees and
to find out if any of their relatives have been foreigners
• Nationalism and ethnic "purity".
• Empathy towards foreigners, immigrants
• Personal and national identity.
• To make participants aware of their
own reality and cultural background.
• To understand the relationships
between ourselves and the world.
• To generate empathy with other
people who have travelled or emigrated to another country,
and with minorities.
• To work upon participants' identity
and perceptions of the world.
• To raise curiosity about each other's
• To notice social and cultural prejudice
• To understand "national"
culture in a relative way.
Part A: planning the activity 30
Part B: the research, a day or a
week, depending on the time available
Part C: sharing the family trees,
30-60 minutes depending on the size of the group.
3 - 20
• An example of what a family tree
1. Explain to participants the concept of
a genealogical or family tree.
2. Ask them if ever they have ever thought
of making their own family tree or if someone in their family
3. Suggest participants go home and talk
to their parents or relatives and try to draw up their own
family tree as far back as someone in their family can remember.
4. Talk about the sorts of things people
should ask their family for example, were there:
• Previous relatives who have emigrated
to another country or moved to another town.
• Relatives who came from another
country as immigrants or refugees, or married into the family.
• Relatives who are members of a
minority (racial, religious, sexual etc.) or who married
someone from a minority.
• Relatives who had another religion,
spoke another language, etc.
Give participants some time (from one day
to one week, depending on how much time you have) to make
up their trees.
Invite the participants to share their findings
with the rest of the group. This can be done in different
Participants show their trees, pointing
out how far they went back in time. If they so wish, they
can point out which relatives moved abroad or came from
another country. It is important that participants tell
only what they want to tell (no one should feel under pressure
to disclose facts that they do not feel comfortable with).
Participants do not show their trees, but
talk about facts they found out about their family that
they did not know about before.
Debriefing and evaluation
Depending on the size of the group, this
part of the activity can be done first in smaller working
groups. Each group may then be given the task of reporting
back on common things that they have discovered. Ask them
to answer questions such as:
• Why did your relatives move to
another country (or immigrate into this country)?
• Do you think it is normal to put
up barriers to people's need to find other opportunities
in other countries?
• Have you ever thought of moving
• If so, how would you like to be
treated upon your arrival?
• How would you feel if you could
not: practice your religion, speak your own language or
had less rights as a human being than other people?
Tips for the facilitator
Some questions and findings may be very
personal, and it may even happen that the participants'
relatives do not want to tell their children facts that
they see as unpleasant or dishonourable e.g. someone who
was gay or was in jail, etc. For this reason, attention
must be given to make sure that nobody feels under pressure
to say more than they feel they want to.
Similarly, it is important that there is
already an atmosphere of trust in the group, which allows
for the differences to be put forward. Otherwise participants
may be reluctant to share something about their families,
which they fear could lead to exclusion.
You will have to be prepared to give some
ideas on how to make a genealogical tree.
If you want to make it a competition, tell
them that the further back the tree goes or the more branches
or leaves (representing family members) it has, the better.
This is a good activity to make participants
aware of the fact that throughout history people have always
moved from one country to another.
The best examples are the colonisation movements,
but also within Europe people have often been on the move:
Jewish and Roma people have often been forced to leave their
country of residence; wars have always caused movements
of people, so to have border changes.
Apart from forced movements, one should
not forget the seasonal movements of people e.g. going on
summer holidays to another country or going to work during
harvest times, etc.
It often happens that young people, indeed
most people, are unaware of their family background. We
may be proud of our own past as a nation but are unaware
of the fact that our ancestors have probably come from some
other country, or emigrated to other continents. If this
movement of people is normal, why should the movements and
existence of other people in our country be seen as something
negative and to be prevented?
Suggestions for follow up
If you enjoyed finding out about your family
history have another look at your country's history in 'The
history line'. It is interesting to do this because
what we learn in school is almost always based on the nationalistic
and ethnocentric point of view of the majority.
Taking the theme of family, you may like
to look at some social and economic human rights through
the activity, 'Money
to spend' in Compass. The activity uses role cards
and an element of role-play to decide a family budget.