When I was young, I didn’t think much about my family heritage or who my great-grandparents were or what kind of people I came from. It was enough to know my parents and grandparents, but I learned I couldn’t really even know them unless I knew who they came from. I begin to think I really didn’t even know myself unless I knew those who paved the way for the wonderful life I’ve been blessed with. So, I began to ask questions — lots of them.
Do Your Children Know?
It only takes just one generation in a family who doesn’t pass on the knowledge of their family roots to leave the next generation in the dark about who they really are and the people they came from. Not all the information will be the greatest, but it will be your history. Don’t you think it’s important to give that to all the future generations?
I learned my great-great grandfather was a slave owner. I also learned my grandfather nearly single-handedly raised his three sisters. You have to take the good with the bad. I also learned about a great-granddaddy who died in the Civil War. My people come from the South so you can guess which side of that war he was on.
Sharing the Knowledge
I am very lucky to have a cousin who also has a passion for the past. Her research has been such a blessing and I hope I’ve also given her some “pearls” to check on. The last few years of my granny’s life, I called her quite often and asked lots of questions about her parents and grandparents. I’m so thankful I did! Those names have led both me and my cousin to learn so much more about the family history. One nugget was a lost name to my cousin. She had never heard of a Manuervy in our past. That led to a whole other side of the family we’d never even heard about. It all came because my granny told me about her maternal grandmother.
Photos without Names
If all you do is go through your family album and label all the photos that you have, that will help future generations put the puzzle pieces together. I know it would have helped me while studying my family tree. Take the time to talk to your parents, your grandparents and your children and grandchildren. You never know who will be “bit” by the bug to know the family history. I have one very young granddaughter who often asks me question about our family. I can see her being the vessel to keep all the family members informed for generations to come.
Sharing on Social Media
One of the most fantastic tools for sharing your family stories is right on your computer. I have family pages for my father’s side and my mother’s side so I can share photos and stories I’ve learned in my search for roots. I’ve “met” cousins I never knew about who shared their knowledge of the family tree. All I did was create those family pages and post a few pictures. Soon those long lost relatives found me! The relatives that found me were thrilled to see the photos and told me how they fit into my own family tree. It is nothing short of amazing.
Tombstones and Websites
There are so many websites that can help you find your way to long lost relatives. I like geneaology.com, Ancestry.com and FindaGrave.com. On FindaGrave you can find actual photos of the family plots. Others who are looking for the same relatives often share their stories and knowledge of that family member.
Start with the Living
But of course the best place to start is with the older relatives who are still alive to tell their stories. Nearly everyone has some memories of their relatives. Those stories not only tell you who is in your family tree, but what kind of people they were. I learned my own passion for dirt and growing came from a long history of people who were farmers — for generations! It’s no wonder I love the dirt, the land and all the growing things that come from them.
The very best “tool” for gathering your family knowledge is to be a really good listener. Take the time to ask those questions and listen carefully to what is said. Share that with all the family members who will sit still to listen, especially those youngsters. It will be your very important contribution to family members you may never meet but who will know your name!