October is National Family History Month, a proclamation the U.S. Senate established in 2001 to commemorate the importance of sharing and capturing family stories.
“Millions of Americans are researching the history of their
families,” said Utah Republican Orrin Hatch when he introduced the bill. “Experts say that in the United States, genealogy is now the second most popular hobby next to gardening. It is believed that more that 80 million Americans are currently actively searching for more information about their ancestors.
“It is only natural that we want to find out more about our ancestors,” Hatch continued. “What better way to bring families closer together than by discovering more about the story of their own family? Like it or not, who we are today is in large part a product of our ancestors. Essentially, we are all immigrants to this country. Our ancestors came from different parts of the globe,” Hatch said. “By searching for our roots, we come closer together as a human family.”
As many of you know, I returned to writing and became passionate about helping others write their stories in large part because I wanted to know and tell my own family’s history. Disappointed in my own lack of knowledge about my family genealogy, I started to dig and ask questions. Then, I wrote down what I learned.
How much do you know about your family’s history? I know many of you are avid genealogists, and I’ve been fortunate to read and help you write about your family’s stories. That’s why, especially this month, I’ve decided to focus on genealogy.
In this recent press release, I announce that I am making myself available to organizations, publications, and individuals to request interviews and learn more about what I have to offer when it comes to recording your important family stories.
Perhaps you, too, want to focus in on writing about your family. Or maybe you’ve been curious about genealogy and want to see what interesting genealogical tidbits of information you can unearth. If so, let’s get started now before October is long gone.
How do I begin? Where do I start? It’s all so overwhelming.
If you feel that way, I suggest you start with a small goal. Write a little something down about yourself. Think of one thing you’d want your great-great-grandchildren to know about you. Once you’ve done that, write down one memory of your parents. If you need help narrowing down an idea, think about a special memory from the holidays. Think about a food they would serve, a joke they always told, an heirloom they’ve passed down to you, or a cherished photograph. Start with one story. If nothing else, you’ve recorded an important piece of your family history for yourself and for your children or grandchildren or great-grandchildren.
Feeling brave? See if you can think of a memory you can write about your grandmother or grandfather. If you’re feeling up to it, write a little something about your great-grandmother or great-grandfather. How far back can you go? Once you can’t go any further back in time, see if you can find a person or artifact that could help you climb just one branch further up your family tree.
That’s just one way to stretch yourself and get you writing about your family this month. There are several websites that list many more ways to celebrate. For example, this article on GenealogyGuide.com suggests fifteen different ways to celebrate as well as a couple other genealogy websites that may help you dig up information about your family history. The site suggests you might do a DNA genealogy test, preserve family photos, or create a family cookbook this month, among other fun ideas.
Might you have Italian roots? Even if you don’t, this Italian family website has a host of ideas for ways to celebrate this month.
Are you looking for a good book about genealogy to get you started with the hobby? If so, check out the article “10 Essential Genealogy Books” from Family Tree Magazine.
Finally, if this all seems impossible right now, don’t worry. In my research into National Family History Month, I discovered that Thanksgiving Day is National Family Health History Day. Use that occasion, when you are most likely to be around family, to ask a few questions about their lives and, yes, their health history. You can find out a little more about that here.
I promise, the more you learn about your family’s stories, the more connected to them, and to the larger human family, you will feel. As Orrin Hatch said sixteen years ago, “Researching ancestry is a very important component of identity. It can lead to long-sought-after family reunions or allow for life-saving medical treatments that only genetic links will allow. For all of these reasons, I encourage people across this nation to find out more about where they came from.”