Thursday, July 1, 2010

Involving Family

Surely many of you have asked this same question. How do we involve family and get them to love our genealogy as we do? Nearly all of us who live in the world of genealogy either have family members who are already involved or we have tried desperately to get other family members interested. I believe this passion for genealogy and family history usually has to come along with age. We may start very early in life as prompted by something special like a school project that then blooms into a passion for life. You Go Girl #1 was one of those early bloomers (very early,- many eons ago!) Prompted and guided by that same person, our family has been involved with the love of genealogy for decades AND we have been lucky in the fact that most all our family down through time has been very interested in the history of our ancestors. My paternal Grandmother was born into a family of 15 children and nearly all the descendants of the 12 who survived have stayed relatively close through the years and several have taken an interest in genealogy research. We are truly blessed in that respect.

My interest in genealogy and family history has been present since I was young but I never really got started until after I married in 1971 and started to work a little bit on the extensive research that my Mother-in-law and her sister had done before me. Over the following years, Hubby and I took several short field trips to ancestral home sites, cemeteries, libraries etc. Mom continued to work and lay much of the basis for my husbands side of the family while I raised my kids and worked. She put together a family book for all of us kids some years ago which became our official "Bible" to continue to work from. With the onset of the computer age, our whole concept of genealogy/researching has now changed and I believe that has been the greatest catalyst for generations to follow in our footsteps. Our children and grandchildren are so attuned to vivid graphics that without technology, these generations may not have been as willing to follow through with family history research. Even us old grannies have found new sources to peak our interest. Sometimes we have been dragged along, kicking and screaming, complaining that we didn't know how to turn on anything electronic- but here we are! Mom is still going strong on a daily basis with her research and since I retired 4 years ago I have had my chance to really dig into our family history with enthusiasm. She and I live miles apart but manage to talk several times a week, email back and forth and collaborate on what we have found. I only regret that I could not have started sooner and had more time until the last few years to avidly pursue those ancestors. Now I am trying to make up for lost time! Day and night, the computer is purring, the brain is not resting, or the wheels are turning to get to another on-site research spot. After all, the genealogy research world still lives outside of the computer hard drive too. "We" are having fun now- the two You Go Genealogy Girls, Mom and even Hubby occasionally as he gets coerced into coming along.

What about all those other family members that we wish had our enthusiasm? A new friend and relative whom I have recently met has lamented about the family who doesn't seem to care and sometimes to the point of even being "snotty" about her research and time spent on all those dead people and doesn't want to share their family knowledge. Every genealogist has at least one of those to deal with. Like our ancestors, the living are not all perfect either. If you can't convince them, don't join them-leave them behind and move forward. Yes, it is sad when family does not share our love and enthusiasm but missing out on all those wonderful ancestors and family history stories is their loss. It hurts our feelings when family does not share our love and enthusiasm but over time, I believe many will come around. If they do not then we should record their family as best we can with the hope that a future generation will look back and think of us with love and gratitude for all our hard work on their behalf. With age and maturity, the realistic frailty of family often sets in and many times those family members, and yes, even our own children will eventually see the value of all that we do.

This is the little verse of the You Go Genealogy Girls that we use on our business cards, written because we eat jellybeans all the time while we travel and we think it pertains to many families:

Jelly beans are like our family members. Some are sweet, some are more sour. Some of our "beans" may be white, some may be black, some may have freckles while others may not. Each precious one is an unexpected individual and we love each one....for who and what they are. When they are all together, they can become quite a mixed bag! Whether during sad times or happy times, all those gorgeous "beans" make these genealogist Grannies very happy indeed. They are the fuel of life!

We can all try to involve family in what we do. To nurture their interest is often a chore but we must try as many of our parents and grandparents did. Little did I realize way back then that all these little things would later contribute to my love of family history and genealogy. Grandma spent many hundreds of hours with me; going through old photos or sorting and talking about all the buttons in her old gallon jar and she knew every person's name that went to the old dress or shirt they had come from. Grandma saved them all. She told the stories that went along with each old handkerchief in her big old hat box; who gave her this one or that one and the special occasion that went with it. To a child, they were just fun times but those stories and memories contributed to my families legacy today. Looking back, I often wish I had listened more intently, made an effort to remember the little details in the stories, or even to have asked more questions but 50 plus years ago I too was more interested in the future, not the past. It is amazing that now years later, I realize that Grandma was a very wise lady indeed! I am sure that she knew that she was leaving a lasting impression, one to be carried on. Today- I live far from my own grandchildren but I have that old jar of buttons. Next time the granddaughters visit, I must get those buttons out so we can play. Maybe we can even tie up some bundles for each to save in one of their Great Grandma's old hankies. My old Barbie dolls from the 1950's are carefully stored away but I am sure that six girls would love to hear where they all came from, who gave their clothes to me, or how Barbie became such an icon in my time. That beautiful lace wedding dress that You Go Genealogy Girl #1 made for my Barbie doll in about 1959 or 60 when she was dating my brother-that is tucked away in the little trunk of dolls. Those things may not be ancestors but they are family history and may be the seeds for the future.

One of my twin seven year old granddaughters spent over 5 hours one day helping me to sort and scan old photos, I figured she would last half and hour. What a surprise! That is a memory to be treasured by me and hopefully in years down the road she will treasure the memory of those few hours too. She has mentioned it a few times since so I know she will carry it forward and maybe we can do it again on another visit. She may not remember the names on those photos right now but she will remember they were her family and the little details like the large hair bows and the man with funny ears. Will she be the one to follow in my genealogy footsteps?

You Go Girl #1 recently attended the Family History Expo in Loveland, Colorado. We were to have gone together but my plans changed at the last minute so knowing there was another Expo coming up in Kansas City, I went online to check that out. It looked interesting and I began to think that maybe I could go to that one instead. They were offering several lectures on Swedish research, an area that I research often. I called my son who lives in Topeka, Kansas and asked if I were to come for a visit, would he be willing to drive me into Kansas City for the two day Expo in July since I do not know the city and traffic there at all and it is less than an hour drive from his home in Topeka. To my great surprise and pleasure, he said "can I go too?" Shocked, I think I must have paused because he then said "come on Mom, let's go, it will be a chance for us to spend some time together and it will be fun!" My daughter-in-law told him to go and have fun and she would stay home with the seven children still at home. I feel so privileged that he is taking me and we are both anticipating great fun at the Expo. It has been along time since we have had a Mother and son outing together. He is going back to college this fall, having taken time off with babies at home. His field of study is religious history and archaeology so I am sure that with the full field of lecture titles that are offered at the Midwest Family History Expo that he will have fun and surely learn something new. After all, genealogy IS history. How excited am I? Very... Maybe he will be the one to follow in my genealogy footsteps.

As the author Michael Crichton said-"If you don't know your family's history, then you don't know anything. You are a leaf that doesn't know it is part of a tree."

Family does move away these days but we can strive to involve them in our world of ancestors and hopefully the day will come when each one knows that he or she really is part of and has respect for his family's history.

You Go Genealogy Girl #2, Cheri


  1. Beautiful! I often wonder who, if anyone, will continue my research. At least my daughters don't turn up their noses; they smile indulgently, but maybe in the future. I've sort of adopted your grandmother's approach - keep telling the stories, and perhaps something in the future will trigger the genealogy gene.

  2. Thanks Greta, we all just keep on trying and surely our efforts will pay off---someday!

  3. I had just finished posting an entry on how I got my newly graduated daughter interested in the genealogy by joining her interest in history with the connection to all those files I have at home when I found this entry in my Google Reader. I love the ways you are "bringing" the next generation into the folds in a gentle way.



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