Every book is a quotation; every house is a quotation out of all forests, and mines, and stone quarries; and every man is a quotation from all his ancestors.Ralph Waldo Emerson
Every human has a history of some sort or another and, usually, that history extends far back beyond ourselves. Every ancestor we have has left its mark on us and has been the formation of tradition and culture within our lives.
Many people find that there is a certain comfort in knowing where they came from, and Family History Month encourages folks to delve into the people who came together to make them who they are today. But our genealogy is even more important than just knowing our origins! And that’s why Family History Month was started.
Origins of Family History Month
Family histories have been important since far into pre-history, and have only grown in importance in the years since. Family histories tell people who they are, where they come from, and what great line of ancestors they may have in their background.
In the past, family history was held in high regard by many types of people, carrying the honors and dishonors of everyone who came before them. In the medieval ages, one’s lineage was of such import that entire texts were created tracing the lineage of every noble person in the various lands! In other places, the family history was written into the front blank pages of the most important of all books, the big family Bible.
The science of studying one’s family history is called genealogy and, in recent years, it has become even more important for reasons beyond simply tracking the family line. Many conditions and diseases have been discovered to be congenital, meaning that they pass from mother or father to child. Tracking the family history means that doctors can keep an eye out for these conditions during health checkups, and may be able to prevent or slow their progress as you age.
Who would have thought that Family History Month would be as much about where a person came from, as where they might be going? With the newest technology, it is now possible to ensure that humans and their descendants will live with greater health.
How to Celebrate Family History Month
Celebrating the history of the family is obviously something that should happen all year round! However, this day is an important one that can be used to catalyze a beginning. Try out some of these ideas to get started:
Compile a Family History
It all starts with collecting what people know about their families and compiling it together. This can be done through the use of documents and records, old photographs, and verbal stories from the still-living members of the family.
Those people who are particularly fortunate will have had a family member who had a passion for genealogy and will have started the footwork for them. If not, it’s probably time to hit the books! Today it’s a little easier than it used to be when folks had to head over to the local library and physically go to the places where their predecessors lived. Now, websites and organizations are easily found that can help people trace their family lines. This even includes using DNA samples to help identify unknown relatives! Who knows how big a family really is?
Family History Month encourages everyone to find out!
Connect with an Older Family Member
Don’t let another day go by without hearing the stories that living family members have to tell about their childhoods and the family history. Whether visiting them in person or arranging for a phone call or video conversation, older family members such as grandparents, aunts, uncles or others can be vitally important to the ability to keep the family history alive.
Give them a call and ask them to tell some stories. It will not only give information but will be good for the relationship and help them to feel needed and loved. While there, either take very good notes or go ahead and record what they have to say for posterity. Who knows? It might even make a good memoir someday. But at the very least, those notes could be useful in connecting the dots when putting together a family history, so it’s important to not miss any details.
Engage with a Genealogy Website
Let someone else do the hard work of finding out all of that family history and background! Getting connected to the past is much more feasible with the help of professionals. Try out these genealogy websites and services for ideas of where to get started:
- Family Search. Learn all about the story of your family through this free, international, not for profit tool that acts as the world’s largest family tree! They also offer their services in several different languages.
- Ancestry. Get help creating a family tree that goes back many generations through this large collection of online documents and records. Those looking to dig a bit deeper might want to join this paid service.
- My Heritage. This paid service may be offering a short free trial for those who aren’t sure if they want to get invested right away. Discover unique ethnic background information through DNA testing and find out where your family descended from as well as other vital facts.