Why Recording Our Family History Is Important

grandfather image
My grandfather.

Before a couple of days ago, I didn’t know what my paternal grandfather looked like.

Funny how a post {by a 2nd cousin}, in my Facebook feed, sparked a stream of thought that would eventually lead to a renewed interest in my family history…and this blog post. In my cousin’s Facebook post, she reflected that she regretted not knowing more about her great-grandfather. When her grandmother {my father’s sister} passed away in April, she took her memories of and firsthand knowledge about her father to her grave. Immediately, I knew how she felt because, during his life, my father also refused to talk about his father. My cousin’s post confirmed that the mystery of my grandfather existed beyond my immediate family. It was almost as if someone swore everyone who knew my grandfather to secrecy to keep those family skeletons well and truly locked away in the closet.

Being that my grandparents were all born in a time when records and photographs were much harder to come by, I’d never really thought twice about the fact that I’d never seen a picture of my paternal grandfather. My father’s feelings towards his father and his disparaging comments discouraged us from even asking questions. For most of my life, my paternal grandfather was a mere phantom and I now realize how unfair that was. I’d always felt deprived of the chance to know more about either of my grandfathers. My mother’s father passed away when she was only 4, so she didn’t remember much about him at all; my father’s father passed away when he was 20, so he did remember…even if he didn’t want to.

Although it’s perfectly understandable when people would rather forget certain family members, for whatever reason, it’s a great disservice to future generations to withhold information about the family history. Most people are naturally curious about their ancestry, skeletons or not, and, let’s be honest, most families have secrets and skeletons. It’s helpful and interesting to know where we come from and who’s responsible for our existence. Good or bad, family history is family history. We can’t change what happened before us and knowing the details helps us make sense of our lives, personalities, mannerisms, and genetic makeup {very important for health reasons}. I’m not especially proud of how my father lived his life and he certainly never endeared himself to his family, but I also feel like it’s not up to me to keep what I know about him a secret from my kiddos and future generations. What he did and what his family did is no reflection on my character. Regardless of the person my father was or the dynamic we had in our relationship, my kiddos and grandchildren have the right to know everything I can tell them about him, based on firsthand knowledge. There’s still a lot I don’t know about my family’s history but I really want to find out more now that I have seen what my grandfather looked like.

When I looked at my grandfather’s picture for the first time, I felt overwhelmed by emotion. There’s an undeniable sentimentality attached to genealogy research and staring into the faces of the relatives that lived before us. Although I’d only heard negative things about my grandfather, I still teared up at the sight of his picture; bad or not, he was still my grandfather. I may not have liked him as a person but I’ll never know unless and until I find out more about him.

At the end of my mother’s life, she wanted to tell us more specific “lessons learned” information about her childhood. I think that’s a normal thought process when someone is faced with their own mortality. She told us that my grandmother raised her 5 children to highly value going to Church and getting an education. What my grandmother considered important was very evident in the way my mother and her siblings lived. They were all good people who cherished their families and friends. They all showed compassion by helping others. Knowing what I know about my mother’s family has inspired me throughout my life; I strive to maintain their values and be the best version of myself to honor them.

I want my kiddos and grandchildren to know as much as possible about me so that they can better understand why I did what I did. I want them to know where they came from and what life was like for me during my time on this Earth. I don’t want my life to be a defragmented series of details for the future generations to unravel and interpret while wondering who I was and what I was like. That information should be readily available so that those who are interested have an accurate picture and not left to draw their own erroneous conclusions.

Although we now have access to formal documents and countless photographs we must take make an effort to detail as much of our family history as possible. Life is not represented by only mere pictures and vague information; there are stories behind the pictures. The personal details give us insight into the lives who lived before us. It’s far better to openly discuss what happened than to leave a legacy shrouded in mystery with the added chore of having to piece the facts together and fill in the gaps with speculation.

Talk to your kids, keep journals, gather documents, organize photographs, create videos of different family members talking about their experiences growing up, take up scrapbooking or fill a series of keepsake albums. Even if your kids and grandkids aren’t interested now, I can guarantee they’ll appreciate a more detailed record of the family history in the future. Be honest about the family ancestry. The lessons we learn from our family history are beneficial in so many aspects. Even the hardships and challenges faced throughout our family’s history teach us that our ancestors had the strength and fortitude to persevere when life wasn’t easy.

“Sometimes it’s impossible to know where you are headed without reflecting on where you came from. Understanding your heritage, your roots, and your ancestry is an important part of carving out your future.” ~ Unknown

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9 thoughts on “Why Recording Our Family History Is Important

  1. Great blog post, thanks for sharing. That’s amazing you were able to finally get a picture of your grandfather. I totally agree that we need to document things for future generations!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving a comment!

      I plan to get a DNA test for my birthday this year and I look forward to possibly meeting relatives I don’t know about when I get my results.

      When I was a Freshman in high school, I had to do a family tree project but hit a dead end. Fortunately, we have more information now and we’ve found a whole Danish branch of our tree that we never knew about. How fascinating!

      I do hope you continue to visit. Thanks again for visiting. I hope you have a great weekend and Labor Day. 🙂

      Like

      1. You are most welcome. It’s a great blog post…very authentic. I am now following the blog and look forward to more of your posts. Always such a thrill when you finally come across a picture like what you described. Hope the dna testing helps you learn more about your family!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think that, once I see the results of my DNA, it’ll spark a whole new pet project for me. Thank you for the follow. Do you have a blog I may follow back?

        Like

    1. Hi James!

      Thanks so much for the follow and, also, for taking the time to comment.

      Have you thought about doing a DNA test to help you find out more about where you’re from? I have heard that people have found relatives this way and it might be worth looking into.

      I have given you a follow, too, and wish you the best of luck in your research. Keep in touch! 🙂

      Like

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I appreciate your kind words and hope that you will continue to visit me. I have given your blog a follow. 🙂

      Like

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