How can we inspire our family members to join us in our family history research and memory keeping? Read on for three tips.
Once someone is bitten by the genealogy bug, they become known to their family as the designated “family historian” or “family memory keeper.” There’s usually one in every family, and they’re often pretty busy trying to do all the genealogy for the family. Wouldn’t it be great if each family had several people working together on their family history?
Working with my mother in family history has been such a rewarding experience. Not only has it brought us closer to our forebears, but it has brought us closer together! Incredible connections can be made with living family members as we learn about our shared past together.
If you don’t have anyone in your family who is helping with the research and memory keeping, here are a few suggestions for how to inspire them to get involved.
1. Tell really good stories
Everyone loves a good story. Our lives revolve around stories – we read books, watch television, see movies, tell a funny anecdotes from our days, share tidbits from our lives on social media, read the news, and on and on. We are constantly being told stories. But how often do we hear a story about someone in our own family?
Old family stories can be even more exciting than fiction. I told my son that his 5th great grandfather went to prison after getting in a fight, and he has been asking me to repeat the story daily for the last week.
Bruce Feiler, master storyteller and author, says that stories which pass “the campfire test” are the most effective. To see if your stories pass the campfire test, ask, “does this story have the emotion, the passion, the pain in order to endure?”
But even beyond this, it’s important to tell the stories with excitement, with details, with feelings and historical context. If we carefully select stories that interest our family members, they’ll want to find out more.
2. Apply Lessons from the Past
As I mentioned, my degree is in history teaching. I experienced some of the same hurdles in teaching history that I do in teaching family history. Students wonder, “why is history important now?” and “How does learning about the past apply to me?” The same questions may come to a person looking into their family history. Of course, the answer is to learn from history so we do not repeat it.
Knowing that our ancestors were happy despite their poverty might make our own financial struggles seem less important. If we know about how our great grandmother dealt with the grief of losing a child, it may help us when we go through a similar situation. Simply learning about the past puts our own lives into perspective and give us a sense of gratitude for those who have gone before. They made our lives possible, after all!
What is your favorite part of history? What time periods really interest you? Chances are that everyone has a certain topic in history that they’re interested in. If you can hone in on what historical subject your family members like to learn about, you can share about an ancestor from that time period.
3. Use Their Talents to Create with Family History
When considering the best way to introduce someone to family history, it helps to consider their talents, hobbies, and strengths. I liked writing and making books, so that’s how I really grew to love genealogy.
As a kid, I made up my own recipe books and poetry anthologies. My passion for writing and bookmaking probably started in first grade. Mrs. Mooney had a binding machine that we made books with all year. My first two family history projects were writing about values that my female ancestors embodied and compiling all the family stories I could find into a binder. It was thrilling!
Chances are you have family members who like video editing, photography, cooking, music, problem solving, and acting. Why not involve them in creating family movies, ancestor recipe collections, putting grandma’s poetry to music, solving the family immigration mystery, or reenacting that infamous family story at the next reunion?
There are so many ways to create with family history. Amberly, who writes at “The Genealogy Girl” invited a cousin to join help her edit audio tracks of their grandpa. One artist paints on copies of his family’s records. Two sisters created an art exhibit using inspiration from their father’s machine shop. An author was inspired to write a novel after reading his grandparents’ love letters written during World War II.
What talents do your family members have that could be put to good use in the family memory keeping?
This is the second post in a series of ideas for inspiring others to begin family history. For the other posts, check out Family History Consultants: Inspiring Others and next week’s post, Helping Others Get Started in Family History. Join our Facebook Group “Inspiring Others in Family History” to share your ideas and learn from others.