Finding Family History In Children’s Books

Sometimes, getting a glimpse of what life may have been like for your ancestors is as simple as turning the pages of a book. Surprisingly, even some children’s books can take you on a journey back in time to the places where your ancestors lived. Last week, I randomly happened upon a book which transported my son and I back to 1920’s England, to the world that his paternal great – grandmother may have known during her childhood.

When Dylan and I go to the library, we randomly select five or so books from the children’s area. Usually, he grabs one or two because he likes the pictures on the covers and I pick up a few more that I think he may enjoy. Last week, Dylan was enthralled by a book with a pink and white striped cover. It was “The Big Milly – Molly – Mandy Storybook”, a 75th Anniversary edition of the original book by Joyce Lankester Brisley. The book contains a series of short stories about a girl named Millicent Margaret Amanda, or Milly – Molly – Mandy for short.

The stories take place in an English village in the early 1920’s. Dylan’s paternal grandmother was a young girl in England at roughly the same time that the stories take place. The world was quite a different place then. Although Milly – Molly – Mandy and her friends were quite young, they walked into town to do errands on their own. They walked to school, too. The children spent a lot of time doing what children do best, making their own fun with the simple things that they had available to them.

As I read the Milly – Molly – Mandy stories to my son, I told him that the children in the book lived in the time and place that Great Grandma lived in when she was a little girl. Although he is only two and a half, it never hurts to begin introducing him to things that will build his knowledge of his family history. Children’s books can be a wonderful tool for introducing even very young kids to the people and places that are important to their families – even if it does happen quite by accident.

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