“My family history is pretty much done.” I’d used this excuse many times when asked if I was interested in family history. My dad, grandpa and mother-in-law are all interested in family history and have done a lot of work and I was sure there wasn’t any left for me to do. So, when I sat down in front of the computer in a family history class it was with low expectations. I repeated my common excuse to the family history consultant who was assigned to help me and she suggested we just start by viewing my pedigree chart. She showed me how to print my pedigree fan chart and when she brought me the printout my heart sank. There were blanks. A lot of them. And not hundreds of years back where there aren’t many records, but just a few generations back. Great-great grandparents of mine whose names and identities were unknown. Blank. I realized immediately how baseless my excuse had been all along and my heart was instantly tugged to find these missing pieces of my family.
I have always been a lover of old photos and old stories. My whole life I’ve enjoyed hearing the same family stories over and over and sifting through huge boxes of old pictures. It wasn’t until after that experience in that family history class that I realized that my love for these things was really a love for family history all along. My whole life my heart had felt the connection to the people of my past even though I hadn’t realized it.
Since then my view of and love for family history has expanded. Where I previously thought that family history was all about adding names to my family tree which would involve lots of research and data collecting (and felt so overwhelming), I now realize that family history is so much more. Family history is sharing my own stories with my children, and telling them about my grandparents that they’ve never met. It’s recording my own personal history through journals and photographs. It’s wearing my grandmother’s ring when I know I need extra support. It’s learning the names of my ancestors, learning about their lives, and feeling connected to them.
As I’ve fulfilled the personal calling I’ve felt to participate in family history in ways that are unique and exciting to me I have been immeasurably blessed. I have been strengthened in times of weakness, I’ve felt connection when I’ve felt alone, and my love for my family – those who came before me, those who are with me now and those who will come after – has grown.
“I have the feeling… that those who give themselves with all their might and mind to this work receive help from the other side, and not merely in gathering genealogies. Whoever seeks to help those on the other side receives help in return in all the affairs of life.”John A. Widstoe