Why do we get into family history anyway?

3 minute read

I’m not sure if I’ve quite caught the bug, but I do feel some desire to know about my ancestors. But that feeling is certainly not shared globally, and I hadn’t always felt that way.
What motivates me to do it:

  • I can visualize my own descendants, and think of myself as an ancestor. I hope my grandchildren will want to know something about me, learn something from my experiences and insights. When I think about that, I can relate much better to my own ancestors. I think they hoped to not be forgotten, hoped their experiences wouldn’t be forgotten, and that their descendants would appreciate the sacrifices they made for them. So I feel interest in my ancestors because I know from my grandchildrens’ perspective, I’m one of them,
  • I actually really don’t like puzzles. I dislike sudoku and putting puzzles together. I know it’s relaxing for some folks, etc, but I’m always thinking there must be a better way. I’m interested in making family history easier because it seems unnecessarily complicated. And I think it’s kinda in my blood to be a bit of a dreamer: always having new ideas (and difficulty ever realizing them).
  • I only ever knew one of my grandparents: grandma ficquet. When I knew her she was a recluse who never left home, only had a few teeth, and gasped for breath as she scurried around her apartment hiding from the sun. I can’t help but think the woman who lived through two world wars was very different in her earlier days. And I’ve heard about my maternal grandmother, that she never raised her voice, but otherwise know nothing about her. Both my grandfathers are complete mysteries. In contrast, my wife Amanda remembers each of her grandparents. I feel like my grandparents are part of a family that I know nothing about, it’s kinda a cavity in my soul, that I want to fill.

How about everyone else who’s into genealogy?
I searched and found a blog post exploring why younger people generally aren’t as interested in genealogy. In the comments many people mentioned what got them interested. Here’s what they said that stood out to me:

  • They were bored and looked up a grandparent in some historical library on their college campus, had a very lucky stroke of luck, and were intrigued to learn more
  • They heard stories from parents about ancestors, and so wanted to learn more
  • Some folks feel a desire to become acquainted with ancestors they never knew
  • Its just a puzzle to be solved and they liked solving puzzles
  • Discovering an ancestor involved in an important historical event; like an Amerivan Civil War veteran

Also some other thoughts I have on why people get into genealogy:

  • They become aware they are going to die, and join their ancestors. This feeling gives them a sense of closeness and gets them interested in knowing them
  • Folks realize once they’re gone, the world will keep ticking on and forget about them, so they want to leave a legacy
  • LDS folks want to find a name to take to the temple in order to do temple ordinances for them
  • LDS folks are taught it’s a duty we have
  • It’s a fulfillment of the prophecy from Malachi 4:4-5 of “turning the hearts of the children to the fathers, and the fathers to the children.”

I’m sure there are plenty of other reasons why, what did I miss?
Now, what keeps people out of doing it?

  • Feeling it’s all already done
  • Feeling it’s too hard (maybe there’s a roadblock)
  • Feeling it will take too much time (although I think this is really just a lack of interest)
  • Maybe a focus on the future. But a thorough consideration of “focusing on the future”should include realizing your own mortality and a desire to preserve what you value. So I’m not sure if that’s a complete reason. I think it’s mores focus on the short term future.
  • Inability to read handwriting (and I suppose other languages sometimes, and being unfamiliar with terms used in historical documents)
  • In my case, juggling children. I have major difficulty focusing on something for longer than an hour when children are awake (even if Amanda is taking care of them somewhere else, I like to verify they’re doing alright)

To consider later:

  • Does knowing your family history benefit you? (Outside of the LDS doctrine about eternal families)
  • How much time is reasonable to devote to family history?
  • Assuming family history is of benefit, how can we encourage interest and participation?

One thought on “Why do we get into family history anyway?

  1. I think you will enjoy doing family research. You will find that events in the past will help explain how and why things are the way they are currently in your family. Look forward to reading about your findings.

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