Family history means different things to different people. Some people look back on the past to find out if they’re related to anyone famous or to see if that war story that Uncle Charles tells about their great, great grandfather is really true.
Below are 5 reasons you should participate in family history.
1. Learn more about your ancestors.
Doing family history work satisfies three basic human curiosities:
1.Where did I come from?
2.Why am I here?
3.What’s going to happen to me in the future?
Looking through old records, pictures and journal entries you learn more about your ancestors. You learn things you may have never known. It can be very eye opening. It will likely make you more grateful for your ancestors and things they did and sacrificed to get you where you are today. Learning the strength and discipline family who lived before you had can also be a strong motivator to letting you see your place in the world and what you can accomplish.
2. Ensures memories don’t become distorted or forgotten.
Your memory isn’t as reliable as you might think it is. Over time, for all of us, memories become fragmented and can even change based on your current emotional state or beliefs. We’re all extra confident that we’ll remember important life events, but truth is, we can easily forget little - and sometimes big - details that matter, especially the longer time passes. You probably have experienced this firsthand. And even people you tell may forget an important memory or detail in a story. But when you document a memory—whether that’s writing it down or taking pictures—nothing can be forgotten or distorted.
3. Helps you become more than a birth and death date.
You are important, and so is your family; not just to one another right now, but to many generations down the line. But if nothing is documented about your life, no one will ever know. History isn’t just about what’s happened to celebrities or the rich and powerful. More accurate and compelling history is found through first-person narratives of everyday people. It’s what’s happened to you, and your thoughts, feelings and experiences with things that have happened. Ordinary life and memories are just as important to you and your posterity as major world events. Every detail of your life is part of your history and your family’s history. Don’t take them for granted. Document them so your posterity can benefit and learn from them. It’s going to have a bigger impact than you can imagine.
4. Gives you a sense of purpose.
Writing down life moments is reflective. It helps you make sense of things that have happened or ideas that you have. Writing down your thoughts and feelings, no matter how jumbled they might seem, not only help you, but can be useful to your kids, your grandchildren, etc., later down the road. Documenting thoughts and experiences also gives you a sense of individual purpose. It’s this sense of purpose that gives you strength to keep going and keep leading a good example for your posterity.
5. Benefits your children.
A study conducted by Emory University found that children who know about their relatives before them greatly benefit from this knowledge. Hearing and reading family stories allows them to gain a sense of identity and better understand who they are. Knowing about their past also helps them become better adjusted and more resilient when they’re faced with different life challenges. Above all, the researchers learned these children show higher levels of emotional well-being compared to those who don’t know about their ancestors.
Whatever reasoning people have, we can all agree there’s a purpose to family history—it’s how we can learn about our ancestors and how we can continue passing down memories and life moments from generation to generation. So stop delaying, and start documenting today.
And if you’re looking to get into family history, take our quiz to find out how much you know about family history tools.