The word "family" is one of the most loosely defined terms in the English language because it means something different to everyone. While one person may define family as the relatives who share their home, another may consider family to include extended relatives residing near and far. Still, the western world also views their beloved circle of friends or their pets as family.

What is nuclear family?

A family unit consisting of two married parents of opposite genders and their biological children who share common goals and values and have long-term commitments to one another.

What is extended family?

A family that goes beyond the nuclear family and includes three or more generations, their offspring, and other relatives such as in-laws. Having extended family members living together or nearby is called a “joint family”.

Family research:

Family history research can be like working on a giant puzzle for which you may never find a final solution. There are always more details to be added or people to be found. Many an archive’s search room has witnessed the ‘I finally found it!’

Royal families, both historically and in modern times, keep records of their genealogies in order to establish their right to rule and determine who will be the next sovereign. For centuries in various cultures, one's genealogy has been a source of political and social status.

Unfortunately, not many families keep information on their past and share it with the following generations. Thus, sometimes it’s not easy to get information about one’s family roots. Shajra can be a treasure trove of data to understand who we are and why we’re the way we are. The information it provides is holistic. We all come from a history built over centuries.

The sad fact of life is that all too often, our interest in our heritage only surfaces the older we become. When those in our family who can tell us are either long gone or are fading with age and whose memories are slipping. How many of us can honestly hold our hands up now and say they wish they had sat down with their older relatives and bombarded them with questions about life when they were young, about their own grandparents?

Family for children:

It is a great comfort to know that your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and so on will understand who their ancestors were, where they came from, what they did, and how they lived. Children often can’t see past themselves and the little world that revolves around their day-to-day lives. This is natural. By creating a Shajra, it can help them see where they fit in the world, where they come from and their roots.

As children grow up, family members pass away. They might forget who their great-aunt was or how their grandfather laughed. While you can tell stories about family members who died when the kids were young or even before they were born, these stories become more meaningful if they can be placed in the correct association. For example, let's say your grandfather was one of eight children. Your child may only know or remember two or three of them. Without a Shajra to help them keep track of who was who, other people’s names lose their meaning and place over time. With a Shajra, when Grandpa talks about Uncle, your kids will understand exactly who he means and pay more attention to those stories. Instead of just words, they will be able to imagine their grandfather as a boy, sitting with Uncle and listening to his funny jokes.
You don’t have to create an extravagant or complicated Shajra for it to be of value to the kids. A simple diagram will work wonders to help them make the right connections. 

Things they will learn: About how to do research: being a detective! Get out a microscope and a Sherlock Holmes hat and get into character!
If they ask the right questions: they may learn about major points of history through the eyes of some of their relatives.
Basic biology and genetics: who has the same hair colour and eyes?
Lessons learnt: not all of our Shajra may be happy ones. If yours is one of those, try not to shy away from these parts. Instead, use them as tools to teach why they are lessons to do better.

They will learn about people they may not have known existed. They may learn they have similar personalities and characteristics to some of their relatives. They learn who they are, where they have come from and their connection to the world. Have their relatives immigrated from somewhere else in the world? Children need connectivity and subjects like history to be hands-on. Getting out of the classroom and seeing with their own eyes the history they are learning. Conversations with their relatives give way to family bonding and not just for your children. It’s about bringing family and blood together.

A fun way to motivate children: Make a small Shajra up to the children’s great-grandparents. On a large sheet of paper, make a tree out of brown tissue paper. Then, with green ink, our immediate family members, Mummy, Daddy, and children, make the leaves with their fingerprints. Talk about family relationships and words like "siblings" and "aunts and uncles" and who theirs were. Write out those names on small pieces of white paper and place them where they should be on the tree, starting with the children’s names at the bottom of the tree trunk. Start by sticking them down and then drawing the appropriate link up lines. When planning this activity, ask the family if they could send you pictures of themselves as children and teenagers. So get together and start this extremely rewarding family detective project. It gives kids an interest in their own background and helps them remember people who are important to the family.