Due, in part, to the ability to use the Internet to research information about our ancestors, it’s estimated that more than 80 million Americans are attempting to learn more about their family history. Americans are writing their family stories by collecting personal documents and preserving memorabilia as they share genealogies with new found relatives.
October is Family History Month so why not try one or more of these fun activities to celebrate your family and heritage.
This is something we did a few years ago. We gathered family recipes and then wrote stories to accompany each one, recalling a special time we ate a particular food. An easy way to do this would be to add one or two special recipes each year to create a recipe box of family specialties. (And don’t forget to share it with other family members.)
Instead of leaving all those pictures in a shoebox. Digitize them and store on a disc, removable drive, or an online cloud. Don’t forget to include names of those pictured, dates, and any other known information so they can be shared. (Don’t get rid of the actual prints, but organize them as well. You shouldn’t feel guilty about getting rid of duplicates or blurry photos.)
3. Share family stories.
Write down a family story or make a list of special memories that you’d like to share. Make a point to share a story at Thanksgiving or another family gathering.
4. Visit the cemetery.
Locate and take pictures of family tombstones of some of your ancestors or make a plan for a road trip to a cemetery to visit a family grave site.
5. Document your family heirlooms.
Take a picture and write the story of a piece of jewelry or furniture or some other item that’s been passed down. Include who it is from and why it is important.
6. Interview a family member.
Maybe the word interview is too formal, but make a point to ask a family member to tell you about an event in his or her life that you know little about. I remember Sarah interviewing her great-grandmother one summer and finding out information about her mother, a mid-wife, learning something new about the family.
7. Make a calendar with family birthdays and anniversaries.
One year we received a personalized family calendar as a Christmas gift. It served as a wonderful reminder of the special days of aunts, uncles, and cousins and resulted in many more birthday wishes.
8. Get a family photo taken.
We haven’t taken a photo of the extended family since 2007 when we gathered to celebrate my parents’ 50th Anniversary. It’s time for another family photo!
9. Make a scrapbook of family history.
Digitizing photos and keeping electronic records are great, but writing your family story including pictures in the form of a book can’t be replaced. There’s something special about being able to hold a scrapbook and flip through the pages. Seeing captions or stories written in ink instead of printed out adds another special dimension.
10. Reconnect with a relative you haven’t heard from for a long time.
Make some calls, send an email, reconnect with the living!
11. Trace your roots.
Join a genealogy group or link up with relatives who’ve started researching your family or join an online service which accesses records to find out more about those who lived long ago. Finding draft registrations for World War I and World War II is interesting, but you’ll be amazed to find the same information for the Civil War where you’ll find your ancestors really did fight against one another. And you may even be surprised to find records from the 1600 and 1700s.
12. Plan a family reunion.
Our family reunions in recent years have been disguised as weddings, but a true family reunion is overdue. It’s been close to a decade since our last reunion. That’s too long. Maybe 2016?
“Our ancestors have invented, we can at least innovate.”