One word from someone that has been a wife and mom for over thirty years: Do family history research for all the right reasons and know that it will give you pleasure back ten-fold. I know that you wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t already interested in your own family history, but putting a true value on it will give you the inspiration necessary to bring it all together into a priceless heirloom.
There are three parts to this equation. If your parents are living, your journey into your family’s history will turn into something almost magical. Aahhh… you laugh at me, but continue on with this and then come back and tell me different! When this project is brought out at your next family gathering, it will spark conversations that will leave you with all sorts of new stories to be written down. As for yourself, you might just discover that looking back at your own family tree, with all its ups and downs, will give you a new sense of belonging that might have gotten lost along the way. I love the sense of ownership for my home state and beloved country that I have gained from the journey into my own family’s history. Then we have the next generation, our children, and knowing that the discoveries you make about their ancestors, will affect just how much attention they will pay when it comes to learning about history in school. Actually tying one of their ancestors to a particular time in our country’s history makes a huge impact on them — especially in the elementary age group. Do I have any particular studies to back this statement up? None at all. It is all from my own personal experience and watching my own four children grow up.
Add this excitement onto that same sense of belonging and you would think that it should be a requirement for everyone to delve into their own family history. There you go again…snickering at me. Or was that a snort I heard? If everyone leaned about their past, think how much better we might all feel about our own lives. How much more might we be tempted to get involved in not only our own state but in our country? If we could see some of hardships that our families endured, how could we not be affected and think differently about our own lives? Whoa… this is getting a little too deep, but hopefully, you see where I am going with this.
I have to tell you that as for myself, I have gotten so much more than just knowledge from working on both my own family history and my husband’s family. The feedback that I have received is enough to almost make this girl blush! Not too long ago, my mother-in-law’s brother passed away which was terribly sad for this very close family. The good part was that my mother-in-law had the chance to spend some time with her brother and guess what he mentioned to her? He loved the book that I had made for their family several years ago. Of course, after we got done talking, I had to immediately go and pull it from the bookcase to look through again and what I noticed was how inviting it was to look through. Bare with me as I explain! I am not trying to be boastful about my scrapbook prowess; really! What I want to get across it that it wasn’t your normal family history book filled with pedigree charts, census record printouts, and death certificates. It was done more like a picture book with snippets of really interesting information. While there is definitely a place for all the documents that come along with a well-done family history project, making that connection for the reader is really almost as important.
So many stories… I hope you don’t mind! They all help to make a point that I want to get across in the midst of all my attempts to entice you to take this project on. My youngest daughter is in her middle-school years. In Indiana, elementary students study their state’s history in 4th grade. Early in the school year, I approached her teacher to suggest that I come in and talk about Indiana’s pioneer history. As the genealogist for The Society of Indiana Pioneers, I have had the opportunity to read and hear a lot about this topic and I was anxious to share some interesting snippets that I hoped might catch their attention. As usual, working with my daughter’s classmates was such a wonderful experience — they really are so much fun at this age! To my surprise, I was asked to talk in front of the entire 4th grade (4 classes worth.) What was a little (…OK… a lot intimidating) for me at the beginning, quickly turned into a blessing for myself. The best part came at the end when I asked if anyone knew any of their own ancestors. I was blown away as the hands shot up and it was a good thing we had a few minutes left because they were definitely excited to relate to me all about their own famous ancestors. You could tell that some of the children were really having to put on their thinking caps to try and remember who one of their ancestors were that would equal some of the well-known names being mentioned by their peers. This was fascinating to watch from the front of the class. You would have to ask my children if this rings true, but I am pretty sure the idea that they might have been related to Pocohontas gave them the incentive to listen and learn just a little bit more when this time period came around in social studies class! The most important part of this whole story is that each one of the students that had some knowledge of one or more of their ancestors has some tie to the history of our country. That tie is what will make them not only be a great person when they grow up but will also make them a great part of our country and its future!
Goodness… I am almost out of breath as I finish this posting. You might be thinking that I should have tired fingers from the length of this post, right? Anyway… back to guilty pleasures. There is nothing guilty about this because it is a win-win for everyone involved. Take it on and then report back to me and let me know if I have lead you astray!