Preserving Our Own Family's History

Ideas on preserving the history of your current family for generations to come

A recent article in the New York Times called, "The Stories That Bind Us" contained the following conclusion:

The more children knew about their family's history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned.

This was the finding of a study done by Dr. Marshall Duke of Emory University. This article outlines several other examples of studies showing the relationship between knowledge of family history and "a child's sense of being part of a larger family." The article ends with this statement:

The bottom line: if you want a happier family, create, refine and retell the story of your family's positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones. That act alone may increase the odds that your family will thrive for many generations to come.

As genealogists we are intimately involved in the stories of our ancestors but with today's fragmented families it is more and more difficult for parents and grandparents to pass the family stories along to the younger family members or even preserve these memories for the future.

I suggest the following things that can help to overcome this fragmentation:

1. Keep a personal journal.

One of the most important things you can do for yourself is to record your life in a regular fashion. It is difficult or impossible to remember the day-to-day challenges that you and your family go through as time passes. Even if you consider your life to be dull and uneventful, you will find that keeping a journal gives you a sense of your own self worth and accomplishments. But the record will become even more important to your children and your grandchildren. Be sure to record your life in a way that your children, your grandchildren or even those of your relatives you do not know will benefit from your experiences. Even if you have no children, your extended family will benefit from your experiences. Also take time to record significant family events such as births, marriages, deaths and other things that happen. You and your family will be blessed by your efforts.

2. Record your family's important events

Especially if you do not keep a journal, be sure to preserve and record your family's important events and milestones. This includes keeping accurate records of births, deaths, marriages and other significant events. In the past, many families recorded these events in family Bibles, but this has gone out of fashion in many families. But it is equally important to record this information in a way that that future generations can benefit.

3. Use the tools we have today to record your family history

Today, we have online programs such as FamilySearch Family Tree that give us a marvelous way to record family stories and include photographs of family members that can be shared with family members across the world.

Written by James L. Tanner. Used with permission.

Need help finding more records? Try our genealogical records directory which has more than 1.3 million sources to help you more easily locate the available records.

Related Topics