The 2023 American Ancestors Young Family Historians Essay Contest asks students across the nation to explore what they’ve learned about themselves, the community, and the nation by reflecting on a story from their personal family history. Students enrolled in grades 4–12 in public, private, parochial, and home schools across the nation are invited to participate.

We encourage teachers to use this essay contest as a class project. Use lessons from our free Family History Curriculum to help students explore their roots, and have students submit an essay as a final project. You can also download a flyer to promote the contest to your students.


Essay Question

Select and research a story from your family history. What have you learned about yourself, a community, and the nation from this story?

Who Is Eligible?

Students currently enrolled in grades 4–12 in public, private, parochial, and home schools in the United States.

Submission Deadline

April 1, 2023

Submission Guidelines

Word Count (approximate):

Grades 4-6: 500 words

Grades 7-8: 750 words

Grades 9-12: 1,000 words



Number all pages


12 pt Times New Roman

1 inch margins left and right, top and bottom

Submission file must be a PDF


Grades 4-6

Winner: $500
Semifinalist: $250

Grades 7-8

Winner: $500
Semifinalist: $250

Grades 9-12

Winner: $500
Semifinalist: $250


In addition, all winners and semifinalists will receive a one-year student membership to American Ancestors.

Contest Rules

  • Open to all public, private, parochial, and home school students in the United States.
  • One entry allowed per student.
  • An entry may have been submitted as an assigned school project, but still must fulfill all requirements.
  • All entries must be the original work of an individual student, and must not have been published or submitted for publication elsewhere.
  • All entries must be submitted through the online portal by April 1, 2023. Winners will be announced in early June 2023.
  • American Ancestors reserves the right to publish any essay (or portion thereof) submitted to the competition. It will do so solely at its discretion, but full acknowledgment of authorship will be given. American Ancestors also reserves the right to use the winners’ names and entries for promotional purposes in all forms of media without notice, review, approval or compensation, except where prohibited by law.

Criteria for Judging

Students will not be judged on the specific details of their family history. Essays will be judged based on the following criteria.

Read the winning essays from the 2020 Young Family Historians Essay Contest


Essay Content (60%)

Research Process

  • Description of research process: Who did you talk to? Where did you search? What sources did you use?

Supporting Evidence

  • Claims supported with evidence and reasoning
  • Inclusion of source citations (MLA or Chicago Style)


  • Authenticity
  • Unique perspective

Personal Impact

  • Meaningful connections and lessons from the past
  • Enthusiasm for historic content


Quality of Writing (40%)


  • Flow
  • Clear introduction, body, conclusion


  • Spelling
  • Punctuation


Submit Your Essay

Youth Education at American Ancestors

Young Family Historians Essay Contest 2020

Read the winning essays

Congratulations to the winners of our 2020 essay competition, which commemorated the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower voyage.

Family History Curriculum

Classroom-Ready Lesson Plans for Students K-12

Developed by experts at American Ancestors/NEHGS, this free-to-access national curriculum is designed to expose students in grades 4 through 6 to the concepts, benefits, and joys of family history.

Youth Education Resources

Discover more resources and activities to engage young people with family history research.