If you're reading Moon Over Manifest along with us, you will have discovered by now that letters play a large part in the storyline. Abilene discovers letters in the cigar box she finds that were written from Ned, who is serving in World War I, to his buddy Jinx back home in Manifest, Kansas:
"I selected one and held the thin paper to my nose, wondering, hoping that I'd smell something of Gideon as a boy. Maybe smells like dog, or wood, or pond water. I felt like I was floating in my daddy's world of summer, and hide-and-seek, and fishing when I opened the paper and read the greeting, Dear Jinx, it said in an unfamiliar penmanship."
Abilene is hoping to discover more about her family and where she came from through these letters and Miss Sadie's stories. She doesn't know much about her background, and as the story progresses, she learns more and more about the people of Manifest and her father.
Many of Manifest's citizens are immigrants from places like Norway, Italy, Poland, Greece, Scotland, and Russia. The fictional town of Manifest is based on the real town of Frontenac, Kansas which was an immigrant town in 1918. People from 21 countries settled there, and only 12% of its people had parents who were born in the US.
The library has lots of books on the topics of immigration and genealogy. A few kid-friendly titles I found at our local library are:
Ellis Island by Elaine Landau (Scholastic Children's Press 2008)
A History of Multicultural America, The New Freedom to the New Deal by William Loren
Katz (Steck-Vaughn Company 1993)
Coming to America, The Story of Immigration by Betsy Maestro (Scholastic 1996)
Immigrant Kids by Russsell Freedman (Scholastic 1980)
Do People Grow on Family Trees? Genealogy for Kids and Other Beginners by Ira Wolfman
(Workman Publishing Co. 1991)
We decided to combine letter writing with genealogy and do a project to find out more about our family tree. There are several websites devoted to genealogy, and OMSH's post over at The Pioneer Woman Homeschooling broaches this topic with several great sources and suggestions in the comments. We are going to start at the beginning to build our family tree by finding out who our closest relatives are.
Family Tree Kids has all kinds of resources for getting started on your family tree. My kids are going to write letters to aunts, uncles, etc. asking them to fill out this family group form as a starting point. Sure, it would be easy to email it as an attachment, but to practice letter-writing, we are going to use good old fashioned paper, envelopes, and stamps for this project. They will learn how to properly address an envelope and how to structure a basic letter requesting information. I don't know if their favorite part will be getting to put the letters in the mailbox at the post office and pulling down the door to make sure they dropped inside or getting letters back in the mail!