Detective Night

Audience: Families (children, youth, and adults)

Objective: Families will learn how to do basic research through engaging games.

Detective Night: Invite adults, youth, or children to come to a detective night at the family history center. Ask them to look for clues about a person, a hometown, or an ancestor’s occupation. These clues might be from a Google search or other websites. Invite them to share with each other the unique things they learned about the place or person. Provide small prizes for the clues they found.

If your center is located in the United States or Canada: Invite adults or youth to come to a detective night at the family history center. Ask them to bring the name of an ancestor who lived between 1850 and 1940 and an approximate birth year and birth date for this ancestor. Additional information about the ancestor can be helpful, especially knowing the name of the ancestor’s spouse or other family members.

Prepare a list of questions that participants will answer about one of their ancestors. The answers to the questions should be found in census records. Here are some examples of questions you could include:

  • Who are your ancestor’s siblings?
  • Did your ancestor have a radio (1930)?
  • What was your ancestor’s occupation?
  • Did your ancestor own or rent a house or farm?
  • What language did your ancestor and his or her parents speak?
  • Did your ancestor serve in a war?
  • Is your ancestor an immigrant? If so, what year did your ancestor immigrate?
  • Ask adults or youth to search to see how many census records can be found for their ancestor and to find the answers to the questions.

    Teach them how to attach and tag the census records in Family Tree.

    Give prizes for the largest ancestor family, the oldest ancestor, the most languages found, the newest immigrant, and so forth.

    Ancestor Hunt: Invite adults, youth, or children to come to an ancestor hunt at the family history center. Give them clues about people to find in census and vital records, and challenge them to look for information about the person (similar to the questions used in the detective night activity). Have them share the records they find and something interesting they learned about that person from the record.


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