WE TAKE OUR OWN EXISTENCE FOR GRANTED.
My mother made those statements numerous times as she was working on our genealogy. Think about it… go back for millennia, to the beginning of human existence. If any of our many ancestors had died before bearing our next ancestor, or if even one couldn’t have children, WE WOULD NOT EXIST.
“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” —Marcus Garvey
The United States celebrates October as National Family History Month, and for good reason. Knowing, recording, preserving, and sharing our family histories can provide countless benefits to individuals, families, and entire societies. Family history is more than pedigree charts, censuses, and birthdates—it can be a powerful antidote against adverse life experiences that we face today, giving us a stronger understanding of who we are and motivating us to deepen our roots for generations to come.
9 Benefits of knowing our genealogy:
1. MORE WELL-ADJUSTED CHILDREN
Research shows that children who have been told about their ancestors and know a great deal about their past are better adjusted and more resilient in the face of challenges.
A study conducted at Emory University and published in 2010 involved asking children a range of questions such as whether they knew where their parents met and where they grew up and went to school.
The authors found that the more children knew about their family history, the higher their self-esteem and the better able they were to deal with the effects of stress.
“Family stories provide a sense of identity through time, and help children understand who they are in the world,” the researchers said in their paper.
Another benefit to teaching your kids about their past: It’s a way to get them interested in history.
Genealogy is history on a personal scale. It helps satisfy a deep need to understand how we fit into the broader world around us. Genealogy is more than just a collection of single family threads passing through time. It truly is a journey of many lifetimes woven together from the past, the present and (from our perspective) the future.
3. FAMILY LEGACY
Pass on a legacy to future generations. Genealogy is a fascinating and compelling activity that demands the same kind of persistence and deductive reasoning as detective work. Tracing ancestors is really about solving a series of mysteries. Except in this case, the mystery is you.
4. CORE IDENTITY
Knowing our cultural background and where we came from can help us develop a strong sense of who we really are. The way we relate to our family stories and create our own narratives about ourselves helps establish our unique, authentic core identity.
Learning the history of our ancestors helps us gain a greater understanding of the challenges they faced, and it often inspires greater love and compassion for their flaws and mistakes. This compassion can easily translate to our relationships with the living, within our families and outside them. We all face hard things. Remembering that fact in the context of others’ shortcomings allows us to be better employees, managers, spouses, parents, children, siblings, and human beings.
Knowing our family history builds resilience. In learning about our ancestors’ lives, we can see patterns of overcoming failures and surviving hard times. Their stories remind us that surely not everything in life will work easily, that disappointments occur and inequalities exist, but that we can recover, triumph, and find happiness despite hardships.
William Dade was an 18th-century cleric in Yorkshire, England. Although he never married and had no children of his own, he promoted the practice of including as much information as possible in parish registers. Because of his efforts, many registers of this period contain rich information for genealogists.
Amy Harris, a family history professor at Brigham Young University, refers to this type of selfless effort as genealogical consciousness. The act of being aware of and having a sense of responsibility to our ancestors, progenitors, and all of future humankind is an act of altruistic selflessness.
The ability to cooperate and act selflessly is unique to humanity. Harris teaches that it is what allows us to harness the “power of millions and billions.” Learning our history, recording it, and preserving it blesses not only our related family, but the entire human family.
As we dive into our own family histories, we see events unfold on both a large scale and a personal scale. Contemplating the enormity of mankind while reading about the hand of the Lord in our ancestors’ lives bears record to us of His concern and immense love for each of us personally. Our worth and value is great in His sight. We are loved and known by Him.
Our family history goes beyond the names and dates we find in our tree. It’s about what makes us who we are. It’s about people with whom we can form deep connections. It’s about people who lived and breathed and suffered and triumphed. It’s about roots and branches and leaves and entire forests. It’s about all of us.
The lovely necklace above is by artist Ashley Gilreath. The images are not our family. You can see more of her work here – https://ashleygilreath.com