Your Family History
By Dr. H. Wallace Goodard
with your family's history can provide a feeling of heritage and
meaning to your life. It can help your family celebrate and enlarge
its strengths. It can also be a great adventure.
with what you have. You probably have more history than you
realize. You may have a box of papers from your school days. Maybe
you have a cherished photo you inherited from your mother or a hand
tool you received from your father. Gather up the things you have.
Organize them. Find a way to integrate them into your life. You
might find just the right frame for your mother's photo or a shadowbox
in which to display the tool from your father. Make them the symbols
of good things you have inherited from your family.
next step is to explore. Talk with extended family members about
family history they may have. Your aunt may have a box of papers
and letters from your grandfather. She may be willing to give it
to you if you will organize its contents. Or she may be willing
to have you borrow it to read the letters and journals.
also includes talking with people about the stories and traditions
that they remember. You can record your grandmother telling about
her babies or your grandfather singing a childhood song. Capture
the richness of the memories and personalities.
people like to explore their genealogy across generations. There
are now many online resources that give you access to extensive
records. Try typing "genealogy" or "family search"
into your web search engine and you will surely find enough resources
to keep you exploring for a long time.
the course of studying your history you will certainly discover
warts and wars. Discovering your ancestors' flaws can be dismaying
but it can also remind us that all of us are in a learning process.
We can learn from their mistakes and celebrate the good that we
your story. Some people love to keep a journal. Most people
never get around to it. Yet each of us can keep a record in a way
that works for us. Some people scribble a few notes about the events
of each day on a calendar. Some drop cards, programs and other memorabilia
into a file. Some make illustrations in an art book. Some take lots
of pictures. Some make scrapbooks. Some track their story by the
letters they write to family members. Some people record their story
on audio or video formats. Find a way that works for you to record
the story of your life.
your family history. Rather than bury our family history in
a storage room, we can make it a part of our lives. We can make
a heritage wall with pictures and mementos from our ancestors. We
can put a favorite object from a favorite relative on our desk or
mantle. We can frame special documents and put them by the side
of our bed. We can copy cherished letters and histories and share
them with other family members. There are great benefits from connecting
with our family history.
are some of the family history resources that you already have?
How can you use them better or enjoy them more?
are some of the family history resources (people, records, and objects)
available in your extended family?
is the best way for you to record your personal history?
you have childhood objects that mean a lot to you - maybe an old
trike or a baby gown or a toy? Can you use them in your daily life
in a way that will remind you of good experiences in your life?
can you help your own children keep a record of their lives? You
might record important events for them when they are small. You
might also take pictures. You might save objects they will one day
cherish. You can also display their works of art and photos.
popular family history web sites include: Kindred
Konnections; The Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Ancestry;
Genealogy . com
H. Wallace Goodard is an Extension Family Life Specialist at the
University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, Cooperative
Extension Service. Reprinted with permission.