Why We Need Family History Now More Than Ever

September 26, 2017  - by 

by Rachel Coleman

Knowing, recording, and preserving your family history directly impacts you, your family, and even future generations of people you may never know. Find out how and why family history matters.

A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” —Marcus Garvey

The United States celebrates October as National Family History Month and for good reason. Knowing, recording, preserving, and sharing our family histories can provide countless benefits to individuals, families, and entire societies. Family history is more than pedigree charts, censuses, and birthdates—it can be a powerful antidote against adverse life experiences that we face today, giving us a stronger understanding of who we are and motivating us to deepen our roots for generations to come.

Core Identity

Knowing our cultural background and where we came from can help us develop a strong sense of who we really are. The way we relate to our family stories and create our own narratives about ourselves helps establish our unique, authentic core identity.

Connection

Forming relationships with family past, present, and future can fill an innate need in us.
Human beings desire attachment, belonging, and connection. The relationships we form with other people can be incredibly durable, not only with people in our present, but also with people in our past and future. The more we discover about our past, the greater a connection we feel to our ancestors. As we record our own history, we open the opportunity for future generations to connect with us when we are gone.

In a popular TED talk entitled, Everything You Think You Know about Addiction Is Wrong, British journalist Johann Hari teaches that the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it is connection. Connecting with members of our family past and present by learning their history fills an innate need in each one of us.

Compassion

Learning the history of our ancestors helps us gain a greater understanding of the challenges they faced, and it often inspires greater love and compassion for their flaws and mistakes. This compassion can easily translate to our relationships with the living, within our families and outside them. We all face hard things. Remembering that fact in the context of others’ shortcomings allows us to be better employees, managers, spouses, parents, children, siblings, and human beings.

Resilience

Knowing our family history builds resilience. In learning about our ancestors’ lives, we can see patterns of overcoming failures and surviving hard times. Their stories remind us that surely not everything in life will work easily, that disappointments occur and inequalities exist, but that we can recover, triumph, and find happiness despite hardships.

Knowing our family history can foster a sense of identity and who we are.

 

Bruce Feiler, in an article for the New York Times, summarizes a study about the resilience of children: “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. [It] turned out to be the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness.”       

Selflessness

How records and family history impact generations to come.
William Dade was an 18th-century cleric in Yorkshire, England. Although he never married and had no children of his own, he promoted the practice of including as much information as possible in parish registers. Because of his efforts, many registers of this period contain rich information for genealogists. Amy Harris, a family history professor at Brigham Young University, refers to this type of selfless effort as genealogical consciousness. The act of being aware of and having a sense of responsibility to our ancestors, progenitors, and all of future humankind is an act of altruistic selflessness.

 
The ability to cooperate and act selflessly is unique to humanity. Harris teaches that it is what allows us to harness the “power of millions and billions.” Learning our history, recording it, and preserving it blesses not only our related family, but the entire human family.

Self-Worth

How family history and family relationships strengthen you.
As we dive into our own family histories, we see events unfold on both a large scale and a personal scale. Contemplating the enormity of mankind while reading about the hand of the Lord in our ancestors’ lives bears record to us of His concern and immense love for each of us personally. Our worth and value is great in His sight. We are loved and known by Him.

Our family history goes beyond the names and dates we find in our tree. It’s about what makes us who we are. It’s about people with whom we can form deep connections. It’s about people who lived and breathed and suffered and triumphed. It’s about roots and branches and leaves and entire forests. It’s about all of us.

 


Related

Fortify Your Home

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Build a Legacy Through Sharing Family Stories

Learn how you can share family stories to strengthen your family.

Small and Simple Ways to Celebrate Family History Month: Journey to the Past

Learn how to build lasting family memories through traditions.

 

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Comments

  1. que bendiciones son toda clase de aprendisaje especialmente para nuestros hijos para que ellos continuen con este gran legado que tiene que son sus antepasados y que sientan un gran amor asia ellos y tanbien conpacion gracias por todo y cada una de las
    maneras de aprender todo lo nuevo y facil de conpartir con los que enpiesan a aprender

  2. I absolutely loved the video used today (Sep 30, 2017) post-conference with apostles speaking of family history, one of which was Elder Bednar speaking of “Turning the hearts…”. At the end of the video, it said “FamilySearch 2016”. I really want to use this video in my lesson on October 8th, but I can’t find the video anywhere! Does anyone know which video I’m referencing? If so, please direct me there!

  3. “…It’s about roots, branches, trees and entire forests”. I’m in search of my family tree however, on my mother’s side there is absolutely no written documentation. She was born in the era and in a culture where there were no birth certificates. Displaced at an early age, she herself didn’t know here family tree. It’s very hard to trace. This post is inspiring me to try.

    Thank You!

  4. I think that’s good, because when I see your article, I start doing my own family history. Yes, we can see patterns of overcoming failures and difficult times, and their stories motivate us.

  5. That is a good point that learning of our ancestors’ history helps us gain a greater understanding of their challenges. That would be something that I would love to do so that I can connect with them. It would make me feel grateful for the thing that I have today.

  6. I have been doing my family history for over 30 years, and was able to become a member of the NSSAR..the National Society of Sons of the American Revolution in 2017. On my mother’s and fathers side of family, and traced my paternal side back to 1638 when Edward Chapman left England arrives in Ipswich, Massachusetts.
    With over 8,000 ancestors it has been a total history lesson on how all those people lived, served in military and raised large families.
    Most enjoyable hobby that will grab you and never leave you bored.