Friday, January 23, 2009

Article #39 Family Historians Needed

Hopefully every family has at least one special person, either male or female, who cares about preserving their unique legacy and history as a group. Someone who carefully gathers names, dates and photos then organizes this information into some format to share with their kinfolk. If you don’t have a family historian, perhaps you could volunteer. It’s an important job that will require time and diligence, plus a real love of history to compile your heritage. If you are the family’s historian, congratulations. Look for volunteers to help you, and a younger successor to carry on this important work after you’re gone. (Photos of various family histories I've written over the years.)

Why keep family’s records? They can come in handy in cases of disputed inheritances or to gather relatives together for occasions like funerals or reunions. It helps in writing up obituaries, and medical needs can also be traced through a family. Incidences of diseases like cancer and heart problems can promote prevention and influence living family member’s life styles. Written histories of parents and grandparents lives can help preserve their contributions and leave a heritage for families to follow. 

To be effective, a family historian needs a persistent and loving nature. They will meet resistance from some of their relatives who don’t want to be bothered with details of their past family’s events or don’t want to answer personal questions like the names, dates and places of their lives. Usually youth fall in this category. They don’t interact with others not their own age, especially older aunts, uncles or cousins who they may not know very well. 

What’s a person to do? Don’t give up. Try to interest the younger generation in knowing more about their roots. Use special occasions like reunions, holidays or vacations to introduce their unique family to them. What traditions or achievements have their ancestors accomplished or left as a pathway to guide them? Explore new ways to share your family’s story-newsletters, children’s storybooks (see samples above and below of half size books I make for my grandkids-printed on card stock and laminated before being bound), interactive reunion activities are all fun possibilities. In our day and age anything electronic can entice the younger generation like a family history webpage or blog. 

Visit and photograph your grandparents’ birthplaces or where they were raised. Pursuing hobbies that fascinated an ancestor can be interesting and educational. Perpetuate their memories so they can be an influence for good on their descendents of which you are one.


  1. When I taught high school, the big writing project for my seniors was to write the biography of someone important in their lives. Usually they chose a parent or grandparent. And because I enjoyed writing along with my students, I also wrote several biographies. My most precious one, of course, is my mother's biography. Parents loved this assignment and often thanked me for giving their children an opportunity/excuse to sit down with relatives and hear their stories.

  2. One year I decided to have the family tree (on my Dad's side)professionaly traced as a Christmas present for him. It was finished in the summer, and I was so excited I showed it to him early, I just couldn't wait. I was kicking myself, thinking what I would do for Christmas, but I went ahead. He was just thrilled, and we went over all of it together. Then, he got a bad reaction to a flu shot in September, and passed away quite unexpectedly. I was so glad I hadn't talked myself into waiting to give it to him!! I have such great memories of how much he liked it. I think it's a good idea to have family trees written down. Even if no one in the current generation is interested, someone in the future will likely treasure it.

  3. Great post, Lin. Lots of helpful information on what we need to do. I'm starting ours, trying to contact those I know personally for info, searching public records, etc. Thanks for the inspiration.

  4. A persistent and loving be sure! I had an uncle who was our historian. Actually, two uncles, a gram, and an aunt who were so intrigued by Isbell history that they gathered it from everywhere. They loved each other and it came through in this delightful way. They gave us a story.

    Your post makes me think of family Bibles with the family tree inside. Sure does point to the sacred nature of these ties.

  5. Great post! My sister Nonie and I have been researching our family for several years now. I just wish we had started sooner.

  6. You are so right Lin...One of our cousins has my father's side of the family well documented, but my mother's side is not as well documented. I have some details, but not many...