Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Family History! Wow...

I've been on an especially powerful and productive family history kick lately. It's awesome!! I've had these "kicks" and spurts on and off over the years; once I spent 15 hours on a Friday downloading genealogy files... Talk about a family history burnout! Haha, I could hardly stand to look at a computer after that.

This one has been building up for a few weeks, but now I've started using family history work as an effective distraction from and check on wedding planning (I'm ahead of schedule, but it's hard not to think about "what else can I get done"). It's really more than just a hobby though. Keep reading, and I'll try to explain why.

As far as I'm aware, most of the genealogy has been done on both sides of my family. And at current, it's impossible for me to rectify incorrect submissions to my family tree online (apparently that part of the system will be changed in the next few months!), and I don't have much access to original records myself, so I don't feel like there's much I can contribute to genealogy for now. So I'm working on collecting family history!

The way I see it, genealogy is connecting links of names and vital places and dates (birth, death, etc) in a family - forming the skeleton - and family history is the meat of the matter - the stories and traditions of a family that are passed across generations. That's what I want to work on collecting. Just because I have my great-grandpa's name and birthday doesn't mean that I know anything important about him. If there were 3 important things that you want your descendants to know about you, what would they be? And how will they learn it?

Working on family history has several dimensions: I can form my own footprint, and track down the footprints of others. For years I've collected tickets and mementos from things I do so I could remember them later (I still have yet to organize most of them into a sharable format). I've also been feeling the importance of keeping my own journal, so that's something I've been consist at over time (my most verbose periods are when I'm stressed or have a lot to think about, or I specifically want to write about important events), and I write on this blog as well. For others, I'm trying to track down their stories and learn the details of their lives.

It's hard stuff, trying to discover the lives of people who've been dead for a while, but I'm finding resources. I've visited the Church History Library and Family History Library in Salt Lake City, UT a couple times now, and would love to take a research weekend there sometime. The superficial understanding I gained was that the FHL deals mostly with genealogy and the CHL deals more with the history aspect. I've found some helpful leads already, and can't wait to explore them more!

What am I going to do with all this information? I want to make it available to my family. Some ideas I've had include: creating a "wiki" database of ancestors with helpful links and as much information as I can find on their lives, creating children's storybooks with pioneer and farm/frontier stories from their own ancestors, and organizing binders of sacred experiences my ancestors have had for family reference.

When my great-grandma died last month, I realized that although I had more recent interaction with her than I had with other family members who have died, there's a lot in her life I don't know much about, and no one after me will know about her unless I preserve her memory and pass it on. I am the link. I guess that's what it comes down to. This is my family - my people; they're part of who I am. What else matters more? My faith and my family both tell me who I am and where I come from. Heck, if you want to make a difference in the world, what better place to start than with your family? I suppose that's why I'm doing this, because I love my family: the family I come from, the family I'm in now, and the family that is yet to come. So let's do this!

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