Often we think that great history is in the halls of Congress, in the White House, or on battlefields. Actually it may be sitting just across the table or coming to visit on Sunday afternoons. You can explore the concept of family history with your class using the best of the Internet to enrich your study and see what others have done.
The National Archives offers free articles and tools for students researching their family tree. You can also find tips from genealogists and a state-by-state list of resources on genealogical research at the "Ancestors" site, which grew out of a TV series about the family history. Joanne Todd Rabun completed a history of her grandmother, Winnie Lackore, using excellent oral history questions, which your students can draw upon for inspiration.
Oral histories as well as the photographs and papers handed down through families — some available on the Internet — can be a prism through which to examine the key events of history. You can understand the hardships endured by Japanese Americans sent to detention camps during World War II when you read and listen to these interviews with Japanese Americans who were interned during the war.
The PBS series African American Lives follows Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates as he uses archival materials and artifacts, as well as DNA evidence, to trace the lineage of notable African Americans. Read about the family trees of people like Whoopi Goldberg and Chris Tucker, and then help your students use tools on the site to begin their own genealogical research.