Sharing Family History… with Your Family!
Family history is best when shared, especially among family. Whether the sharing is a simple story or a large collection of research, communicating such information with others ensures the legacy and tidbits of our ancestors are passed on. While we may sometimes feel ownership over our hard-sought information, the heritage belongs to them as much as it does the person who researched it. The family members may not understand the painstaking effort and time you put into every detail of the family tree, but most will appreciate the overall narrative you made available. Names and dates do not interest everyone, but juicy and provocative stories do. A family history provides a sense of belonging in the greater historical context. The stories of our ancestors bring entertainment, pride, and motivation. Family history helps older family members recognize their role in bridging past and future generations. Younger relatives may recognize better their own heritage and connections to family and community.
Simple Ways to Share
Show Them: People like to see artifacts and records that provide insight into the lives of their ancestors. I have a hallway full of old family photos, and if anyone related to us in any way visits, I make sure to show them. Pictures are wonderful visuals, and I have not found anyone yet who has said, “I do not want to see what my great-grandmother looked like.” Heirlooms, antiques, newspaper clippings, or other items that belonged to someone in your tree make great conversation starters. Show people their heritage.
Take Them: There is a special feeling when standing on the same ground your long-gone family members stood. When sharing your family story, take people on a “family tree field trip”: a journey to the very spots their ancestors lived, learned, worked, and worshipped. A few months ago, I took my aging grandmother on a genealogy journey to a county seven hours away. We saw the town that our ancestor helped build, drove to the old home place (now a horse pasture), and visited grave markers that honored many of our forefathers and mothers. Cemeteries provide great visuals for our genealogical relationships. Last year, I showed my wife a spot where her great-grandfather pastored a church in the 1890s. She grew up seven miles away and had never seen it.
Give to Them: Printing a family tree or family history booklet provides someone with their own copy of your research. I have printed a few booklets for relatives, and most of them seem to take pride in having their own copy of the family story. Obviously a great deal of work goes into a book, and you may discover vital information later. But a printed document can be a real treasure to that person. Even a simple, inexpensive gesture such as printing a photo or pedigree chart could mean a lot to someone.
Share your story. You’ll probably learn something new when you do!