Sunday, May 22, 2011

Family History/Genealogy - Why Do We Do It?

Why do we do family history/genealogy? That is a question that comes to my mind as I help people to search out their ancestors. What compels us to make the connections to those from whom we inherit and share so many things?

This week they ended up treating my knee with cortisone shots. Not the most wonderful of experiences. I just want the pain to go away. After the shot they sent me to the casting room for a brace. It took only a few minutes to get the brace. After the attendant asked me what type of work I do, and I said genealogy research, we had a lengthy discussion about why we do this type of research. The first attendant comes from an LDS background and has an extensive family history. The second attendant had researched back three generations and was looking for help. I provided research suggestions and a business card.


When I left the office to join my son, who was my chauffer for the day, he told me that there was a very similar conversation in the waiting room between some other people. Is there a shift in people wanting to learn about their ancestors?

For our family the last two weeks have been very interesting. The weekend after our five-day trip to the beach, we attended two family birthday parties. The first party was for one of our son in laws. It was nice to be with his family. All but one of our children were there, and we spent time with all of our grandchildren. We were outdoors, and with typical Oregon weather, it was a little chilly. We had a fire pit and a great meal. After three hours we came home for a half hour and then left for the next party.

The second party was for the son of our niece on my husband's side of the family. Over the years we have not spent much time with them, but felt we should attend this event. We were there for three hours and the weather had not really improved. The miracle is that it did not rain. The older sister of the niece made a lovely Cars Birthday Cake; there were Cars games and a pinata. Everyone had a very nice visit. We especially enjoyed visiting with the older niece and learning a little more about her life. She introduced us to her husband and you could really tell how much they love each other. It felt like such a positive day all around.

On Monday night we received a phone call from our sister in law informing us that the older niece passed away that evening. This was totally unexpected. The family will get together this week to remember the wonderful contributions this young woman made to so many lives. One place I felt great comfort was facebook.com.
To read the words of this couple and view the pictures of precious memories they share is a wonderful thing. The comments from family and friends help us to round out the knowledge of her life. Having loved ones die before what we might believe they should can be a very difficult grieving process.

In the newspaper last week there was an article about Stephen Hawkings the scientist and a twelve-year-old boy named Colton, who were debating over the afterlife. Stephen Hawkings believes that, "“There is no heaven or afterlife for broken-down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.” We being the broken-down computers. The young boy believes that there is a Heaven after having gone through a near death experience. The article notes that, "Colton and millions of other Americans (more than 70 percent) believe wholeheartedly in Heaven’s existence."

I would suggest that many of us who research our ancestors have some belief in an afterlife. When someone questions why we have such an interest in genealogy, the answer may be that we believe in a hereafter. Whatever your reason is for wanting to discover and understand your family history, please note that it can serve many purposes. For many it is just to pass on the knowledge we have incorporated and validated through the research process. For others it serves a more spiritual purpose.

To really know the family history we need to continue to make and preserve family memories through the common experiences that we share. Some are happy, some are sad, others are mind-boggling. Please work to capture the moments of your loved ones lives as you share this time together and preserve them so others may enjoy them in the future.

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