School Family Tree Project – Ancestry Lesson Plan

kennedy joint family

Family Tree School Project Lesson 2 – Ancestry Lesson Plan 

Grades 9-12


Overview: (Activity = 60 minutes)

This lesson is aimed at students aged 14 and up. It should be completed in pairs.

Previous Work (Context):

Learners should have already completed units on family trees including one of their own families. This activity is best suited to a class that has already completed lessons on major historical trends, for example, a European or world history class in the final weeks of the school year. Alternatively, it may be done to introduce these topics and families at the beginning, as an exploratory activity. This ancestry lesson plan is for older students due to the concepts of inbreeding, child marriage, and other mature themes in famous genealogies.


Learning Outcomes:

By the end of the ancestry lesson plan, learners will:

  • Be able to identify famous members of a historical family and give a summary of the life of two of their favorites from that family
  • Be able to give a broad overview of a major historical family’s genealogy, relating it to major events of the time
  • Be broadly aware of historical trends in the number of births, family structures, and possible pressures on major historical families (primogeniture, hereditary disease, arranged marriages, succession crises)


  • Computer for research or mobile phones
  • Poster paper (at least 14×16)
  • Paper for note taking
  • Example poster – premade


  1. 10 Minutes
    • Discussion questions to start with on the board:
      • What pressures did famous people of the past live with?
      • How many children did Marie Antoinette’s mother have?
      • Why did kingdoms change hands so often in the past?
    • An instructor can start the class with a five-minute open discussion on these or other related questions depending on the chosen family tree.
  2. 15 minutes
    Instructions for students: Today, you will investigate a famous historical family. Before embarking, you need to know that famous families are full of crazy stuff! You might think you know the history of Europe, but wait until you see who was the ‘Grandmother of Europe’ or how why the War of the Roses was called ‘The Cousins’ War.’ With your partner, choose a famous family. Here is a list that you can choose from.
    – Habsburg Family –– Tudor Family and the War of the Roses –– Spanish Royal Family-– Chinese Imperial Families –– Gonzaga Family –

– Medici Family –

– Borbon Family –

– Japanese Imperial Family –

– Current English Royal Family –

– Borgia Family –

– Rothschild Family –

– German Royal Family –

  • You may also choose another family, but make sure that they have a Wikipedia page and that your instructor knows who you chose.
  • Trace the family with your partner, and make sure that you write down interesting tidbits about at least 20 members of the family. You need to create a poster tracing at least ten generations of a historical family. You may want to start with one famous member (current monarch like Elizabeth II, or a famous figure like Isabella of Castille).
  • During your research, choose two people who you find most interesting with your partner. Be prepared to give extra information about these people in paragraph form.
    • Research section should last 20 minutes maximum
  • 20 minutes
    • Learners should then create a poster tracing the family history at least five generations. This requires that they have a previous working knowledge of family trees. They must follow conventions from formal family trees, but may decorate the poster however they want..
  • 10 minutes
    • Learners will each write a paragraph about their chosen favourite person from the family tree and write a 5-10 sentence paragraph about their life. This should include who their spouse was, what major historical event they influenced or lived through, and why the learner finds them so interesting. These should be attached to the poster.
  • Time permitting, learners could present their findings to the class.


This concludes the ancestry lesson plan.

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