Family History: Those with Lofty Ideals


Student notebooks, research materials, computers with Internet access, and  Speech or Eulogy Planner reproducible 


Related episode

Spotlight on an eulogy titled “A Negro Hero Dies” written by a Spanish Civil War veteran.



How have recent ancestors lived their ideals, contributing to the world in ways that are connected to national or global history?



Estimated Time Required

1-2 class periods




Related Reproducible

Students use this reproducible to help them plan an eulogy or speech about a family member who has lived his or her ideals.



 Students consider what it takes to express or act on personal convictions, and how far they are willing to go to promote their views and ideals. After watching the above video clip from the History Detectives episode Spanish Civil War Eulogy, they prepare to interview parents and other family members to discover how a living or deceased family member lived their ideals. They then write speeches or eulogies about that person.


Before Viewing

Students brainstorm historical periods when it would have been difficult to voice or demonstrate opposition to a major movement, policy, or way of life; for example, the rise of fascism in Europe or slavery in the United States.


Discuss briefly:

  • Do they think they would have been among those who expressed or acted on their beliefs? 
  • What would they have done? 
  • How far do they think they would have been willing to go? 
  • How do they think their children, grandchildren and other descendants would look back at what they chose to do?



After they have watched the Spanish Civil War Eulogy episode of History Detectives, explain to the class that they will prepare to learn more about a deceased family member who followed their ideals in a notable way – perhaps with respect to a historical moment – in preparation to write and deliver a eulogy about that person.


Share this quote of Albert Einstein with students:

“The ideals which have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully have been kindness, beauty, and truth.”


Then tell them that they are going to investigate a family member to discover what ideals this family member lived up to. If desired, they can focus on a living family member and prepare to write a speech about that person.

In class, they should brainstorm in their notebooks, writing down the names of family members they knew personally or have heard about who did something they admire, like protest an injustice, fight in a war, or make a social statement through politics, fashion, or even, sports. They should also prepare to interview a parent, and perhaps other family members, about their family history by jotting down questions they might ask.

When they are ready, they should conduct interviews, talking to at least one and ideally two or more family members about who they might eulogize and why. When they decide who to eulogize, they should return to those interviewees and find out more. They should also try to find artifacts that represent that person's history, like official records, letters and personal keepsakes and belongings.

When interviews are complete, have students write brief eulogies or speeches, as appropriate, about the family member they discovered or learned more about. They can use the Speech or Eulogy Planner reproducible to help them plan. When they are written, they present them to the class.

Afterwards, students should discuss their research and investigation process. What kinds of questions did they find elicited the most information? What was the most challenging part of doing the research or interviews? How were preconceptions about the person or situation challenged? Invite students to reflect on how they would do the assignment differently the next time around.


Going Further

Have students examine their eulogized family member’s place in context of a specific historical moment. To do this, they will need to research the historical moment during which the eulogized family member lived and select a public figure or literary character who was influential during that time. Using as an inspiration, have them create a Tweet dialogue between that individual and their family member. The dialogue could be a debate, discussion, or sharing of experiences.



History Detective Technique Guide: Interviewing a Parent

History Detective Technique Guide: Family History

StoryCorps Question Generator


McRel Standards


Historical Understanding

1. Understands and knows how to analyze chronological relationships and patterns

2. Understands the historical perspective


Language Arts

4. Gathers and uses information for research purposes

8. Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes