The United States observed its first Family History Month twelve years ago. Utah Senator Orrin Hatch introduced a resolution on September 12, 2001 to designate October as Family History Month. Hatch had circulated a draft for months, but it’s fitting that he formally introduced it the day after the September 11 attacks. In the uncertain aftermath, the words of the resolution resonated. “We look to the family as an unwavering symbol of constancy that will help us discover a future of prosperity, promise, and potential,” the legislation read. “Interest in our personal family history transcends all cultural and religious affiliations.” It passed by unanimous consent.
More than 80 million Americans are believed to be actively searching for more information about their ancestors. This explosion of interest in family history is due, in part, to the advent of the internet. An ever-growing number of institutions, libraries, and individuals in our nation and others are collecting, preserving, and sharing genealogies, personal documents, and memorabilia that detail the life and times of families around the world.
Celebrate Family History Month with your family. The following are projects that could help you get started.
- Google your ancestors: Enter ancestor’s name, plus a location or use nickname, initials, spouses names – each put in parenthesis.
- Search in Google Books. Not every book is searchable, but may provide a “snippet” that gives you a few lines from the book. You may have to find the actual title from a bookstore in library. But if you find a book that lets you search, you can add it to your “virtual library” to be read at your convenience and they are free. Search for your surnames or locations.
- Interview a relative: Don’t put off talking with elder relatives. I don’t want to hear you say “I wish I had asked …..” when it becomes too late.
- If you have been curious about your family tree but don’t know where to start, get a program (there are free programs available) and start with yourself and your immediate family.
- If you have already started research, print a family tree and share with your relatives.
- Create a family recipe book: Contact family members for their favorite recipes and have them include a story about each dish. If someone has their parents or grandparent’s recipe, be sure to get copies. A great gift would be that dish at a family meal or wrapped with a bow.
- Trace your family medical history: Experts say that about 3000 of the 10,000 known disease have a genetic links and can run in families. Disease such as colon cancer, heart disease, alcoholism, high blood pressure or even a trait such as crooked little finger.
- Plan a trip to trace your ancestor’s homestead: Grab a map and head to the house where you lived, the school you attended, or places of importance to your family in the past, or possibly plan a trip to the country where ancestors migrated from.
- Preserve your family pictures: Get those photos from the closets and track down a relative that can help you identify the pictures. Scan the photos into the computer and place the pictures in acid-free photo boxes or albums. Share with the rest of the family either on CD’s or photo albums.
- Create a scrapbook: Preserve your family photos, heirlooms, stories and memories to document your family history and it will become a family heirloom to hand down for generations. Get you family to help add pages to it.
- Craft a heritage gift: For ideas check out www.pinterest.com . The gift need not be large but will be treasured by all.
Hopefully, one of these ideas piqued your interest and will start you in a new direction.
“If you don’t recount your family history, it will be lost. Honor your own stories and tell them too. The tales may not seem very important, but they are what binds families and makes each of us who we are.”
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