Family History Project Lesson Plan

Mark Waggoner

Green Bay Area Public School District







1930 US Federal Census Form


Students will gain an understanding of their family history and connections between their family history and the history of their community and state.

Students will gain an increased understanding of themselves through greater awareness of their family history.

Students will develop research, organizational, and writing skills as they investigate and summarize their family history in writing.

Students will appreciate their cultural background and ancestry.

State Standards:

Social Studies/History Fourth-Grade Performance Standards

B.4.1 Identify and examine various sources of information that are used for constructing an understanding of the past, such as artifacts, documents, letters, diaries, maps, textbooks, photos, paintings, architecture, oral presentations, graphs, and charts.

B.4.4 Compare and contrast changes in contemporary life with life in the past by looking at social, economic, political, and cultural roles played by individuals and groups.

Social Studies/Behavior Sciences Fourth-Grade Performance Standards

E.4.2 Explain the influence of factors such as family, neighborhood, personal interests, language, likes and dislikes, and accomplishments on individual identity and development.

E.4.4 Describe the ways in which ethnic cultures influence the daily lives of people.

English Language Arts/Writing Fourth-Grade Performance Standards

B.4.1 Create or produce writing to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.

    * Write nonfiction and technical pieces (summaries, messages, informational essays, basic directions, instructions, simple reports) that convey essential details and facts and provide accurate representations of events and sequences


• Access to data bases (cost of $99.95 for a year’s subscription or $12.95 for a month)

• Copies of “Family Group Sheet” (see examples on page 163 in Do People Grow on Family Trees? by Ira Wolfman or page 19 of Through the Eyes of Your Ancestors: A Step-by-Step Guide to Uncovering Your Family’s History by Maureen Taylor)

• Copies of “Pedigree Chart ” (see examples on page 162 in Do People Grow on Family Trees? by Ira Wolfman, pages 38-39 in The Great Ancestor Hunt by Lila Perl, or page 17 in Through the Eyes of Your Ancestors: A Step-by-Step Guide to Uncovering Your Family’s History by Maureen Taylor)

• Copies of blank “1930 United States Federal Census” chart (available from and included below)

• Computers with Internet connections for each student


1.         Prior to beginning the genealogical study, the teacher sends a letter home to the students’ families explaining the project and its importance and soliciting assistance from an adult family member. Explain that students will need help in completing the family group sheets and pedigree charts. Include clear, written directions for completing both charts.


2.         The teacher distributes family group sheets to students to complete with the assistance of family members. One family group sheet holds information on the child’s mother’s side of the family and a second family group sheet is for the child’s father’s side. For one family group sheet, the child’s maternal grandmother and grandfather are listed as the husband and wife and the child’s mother is listed as one of the children. For the second family group sheet, the child’s paternal grandmother and grandfather are listed as the husband and wife and the child’s father is listed as one of the children. Include as much information as possible about the date of each grandparent’s birth, marriage, and death; the occupation held; church denomination attended; their military service record; any other marriages they have had; and the name of their mother and father.


3.        The teacher then distributes pedigree charts to students to complete with the help of their family members. Clarify that the child is listed as number 1 on the chart while the child’s father is number 2 and the child’s mother is number 3. The students should record as much information as they know about their father’s and mother’s date and location of birth, marriage date, and date and location of death. The teacher asks students to check with family members for any information they do not know regarding their parents and grandparents on the pedigree chart.


This chart is suitable only for biological families since it records direct descendants. If one parent no longer has contact with the family, then only the side of the family still involved with the child is recorded. However, if relatives of the missing parent are willing to help the child finish the form, then the form could still be completed.


4.         Once students have completed as much as they can of the family group sheet and the pedigree chart, the teacher should do some preliminary research on one of each student’s ancestors using the data bases. The teacher must know each student’s ancestor’s first and last name and the country and state of their residence in order to complete a search through the data bases. Since the 1930 census is the most recent census available on-line, the chances are greater to find information on the students’ ancestors here. If no information can be found on one of the student’s ancestors, the teacher may encourage the student to research the family history of one of the teachers at the school (whose ancestors are included on the data bases). The teacher should print out the results of the search for each student for reference.


5.         Using the school’s computer lab and with the assistance of classroom volunteers, guide students in searching for their ancestors:

Go to through the school’s or personal password. The opening page offers to “Find our Ancestors now.”

Enter the ancestor’s first and last name and their country and state of residence. Click on search.

Or go to the “Search U.S. Census Records,” type in the ancestor’s first and last name, country and state of residence, then click on 1930 census.

            Print out the results of the search and highlight the information about one’s ancestors.


6.         Once the teacher knows that each student can find an ancestor in the 1930 census and has printed out information about their ancestor, the teacher should provide copies of the blank “1930 United States Federal Census” chart for students to transfer data from the original census form. Explain the steps in copying information from the original census form to the blank chart. It is also very helpful if classroom volunteers can assist students in reading the original census and copying onto the blank “1930 United States Federal Census” form.

            For “Place of Abode,” record:

            a. street, avenue, or road,

            b. the house number (for cities and towns)

            c. the number of dwelling house in order of visitation (provided by census taker)

            d. the number of family in order of visitation (provided by census taker)


            For “Name,” record:

            the name of each person whose place of abode on April 1, 1930 was in this family

            For “Relation,” record:

            Relationship of this person to the head of the family

            For “Home Data,” record:

            a. if the home is owned or rented

            b. the value of the home if owned or monthly rental if rented

            c. if the household owned a radio set

            d. if the family lived on a farm

            For “Personal Description,” record:

            a. sex

            b. color or race

            c. age at last birthday

            d. marital condition

            e. age at first marriage

            For “Education,” record:

            a. attended school or college any time since September 1, 1929

            b. whether able to read and write

            For “Place of Birth,” record:

            a. place of birth for “person”

            b. place of birth for “person’s father”

            c. place of birth for “person’s mother”

            For family members who are “foreign born,” record:

            mother tongue or native language

            For “Citizenship,” record:

            a. year of immigration to the United States

            b. whether naturalized or alien

            c. whether able to speak English 


For “Occupation,” record:

the trade, profession, or particular kind of work done, such as spinner, salesman, or teacher

            For “Industry,” record:

the industry or business where the family member worked, such as cotton mill, dry-goods store, shipyard, or public school


            For “Employment,” record:

            whether the family member was at work yesterday or the last regular working day

            For “Veterans,” record:

            a. whether the family member was a veteran of U.S. military or naval force

            b. the war or expedition the family member was involved in


7.         As students record information about their family history, the teacher leads a class discussion on what the students are learning about their ancestors. Encourage students to explain where their ancestors lived, whom they lived with, their age in 1930, their education and literacy level, if any family members were immigrants, the countries they came from, the languages spoken, their occupation, the type of industry or business they worked in, and if any family member was a veteran or served in the military. Ask students why the census taker usually wrote “home” for the occupation of many women and what women often did who worked at “home.” As the students offer ideas, the teacher should record them on the board or large chart paper. Ask students what they find most interesting about their ancestors.


8.        During the class discussion, the teacher should also guide students in making connections between their family history with the history of Wisconsin and the country. Highlight the significance of the Great Depression during the 1930s when more people became unemployed and measures were taken to assist the unemployed in Wisconsin, including unemployment compensation and employment in public works projects. Farm prices fell and many farmers faced the prospect of losing their farms. In 1929, Wisconsin voters repealed the state Prohibition laws making the consumption of alcohol a federal, but not a state offense (see Wisconsin: The Story of the Badger State by Norman K. Risjord for additional background).


9.         Guide students in creating individual concept maps showing important findings from their investigation of their ancestor. Then encourage students to write at least a paragraph describing what they learned about their ancestor by focusing on the most interesting information gained from the census. Invite students to share their paragraphs with a partner or small group, edit, revise, and share the final draft with the class. Paragraphs may also be displayed in the classroom or a “Family History” class book prepared to share with families (with family permission).


Review students’ blank “1930 United States Federal Census” chart for complete information. Review students’ paragraphs for main ideas from census chart, clear and complete sentences, and accurate writing mechanics.

Wisconsin Studies

Teaching Social Studies