Sunday, February 21, 2016

An Unofficial Guide to Family History: An Intro

Do you have a sec? I want to tell you a story.

I grew up feeling like an island. Not that I felt like I had palm trees and tourists running around on me, but that I was isolated. Not just me, but my immediate family. Many moons ago, choices had been made by many individuals, and it left me without knowing my extended families on either side. All of my friends had family reunions yearly, and I barely knew the names of a few uncles and aunts. 

But then something happened. I grew up. I wasn't a kid anymore, and I no longer relied on grown-ups to give me family. It's taken a few years, but I realize now that I am not an island, nor have I ever been (thankfully...tourists are awful). I was just facing the wrong direction. Turns out, I'm just a peninsula. There is a vast ocean of a future ahead for descendants, but all of my family is behind me, connecting me to the larger landmass that is our family tree. 

Having a family, both alive and passed, has been the most amazing asset in my life. As an island, everything seems odd, new, and inexplicable. (Why am I so interested in writing when no one else in my house is? Where do I get this ridiculous sense of humor? How did I get my killer good looks? etc.) As a peninsula, you realize that everything you are is a unique extension of the landmass behind you. (My great-great-great grandma wrote poems and stories. My cousins, share my same silly sense of humor. I have a lot of really attractive ancestors who passed along their sexy genes.)

The more I have gotten to know each of these family members, the more I have understood myself and the world around me. Alone, I have 24 years of experience. Let's be honest, that's nothing. With my family behind me, I have more experience to draw off of than you can shake a stick at (do people shake sticks at things anymore?). 

The past holds a lot of amazing secrets, stories, and answers to questions humans have been asking since the dawn of time. Letting those remain in the grave with those who have passed on is a great disservice to yourself, your future, and the future of mankind in general. Our ancestors have already lived. They have experienced heartbreak, failure, success, and they have found answers to questions we haven't even thought to ask yet. Exploring family history is giving yourself a leg up when it comes to wisdom and life. 

A lot of Millennials think "no one understands me." We have all been there. This is a very unique generation in that we have a lot of new technologies, science is farther along than anyone dreamed (except Einstein maybe), and we seem to be in the transitional stage of figuring out what to do now with all the wars, diseases, and environmental issues. What we don't realize is how completely wrong we are. Yes, we are in an astounding era of technology and science, but we are still people. We as humans have not changed as much as technology has. 

Our ancestors didn't have Snapchat or Twitter so what could we possibly learn from them? 

What are Snaps and Tweets? Ways of expressing ourselves. What are we expressing? Our feelings? Our thoughts? Our fears? All humans have always had those issues. How do we express how we feel, what we think, and the problems we face? 

You are the genetic result of people long ago, so chances are, you have some of the same qualities as them. Science constantly argues nature vs. nurture, and I honestly have no answer to which trait comes from which aspect of life, but I do know that genetics are strong. What you have felt has likely been felt by many generations before you. No, they didn't Snap or Tweet, but they did face problems, and many of your ancestors likely found ways to solve those problems. Exploring their answers will give you answers to your own questions. (How you express those answers is entirely up to you.)

I'm in the middle of figuring out my family history. Many people have had parents and grandparents who have done family history. So there doesn't seem like a whole lot to do. That's the falsest falsey false thing you could think. Remember how we live in a world of technology? Our parents and grandparents didn't have that. We are one lucky generation. We can Google whatever we want and find answers. There are searching tools to help you find answers, pictures, and even some really cool facts about ancestors. 

If you want, you are more than welcome to join me, work with me (on your own family things of course) and together we can maybe figure out how to unlock the answers our ancestors have kept in their hearts. 

This beautiful lady is my Great Grandma. She is one of the women who will be helping me along this journey. Believe it or not, she has a million photos stored in boxes, and family trees typed up on paper that need to be digitized. Lucky for me, I get to know her, visit her, and listen to the wonderful stories she has. Find yourself a beautiful lady (or handsome man) who has collected your ancestors' stories. Maybe the stories are spread out among many relatives. That's great! You get to meet more people! Do it. You won't be sorry. 

Was this post a little too long to read? That's alright. In summary, family history = awesome. Doing family history = worth it. I will walk through it with you, because that's what I'm doing now. Want to join in? Good. I thought so. ;) 

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