In my husband’s family, there are two subjects you never bring up in a conversation with Grandma (if you don’t want your ear talked off that is) — golfing and genealogy. Once you get her started about the life story of a family member or our ancestral linkage to another member of the human family there’s no stopping her. (We’ll have to talk about the golfing obsession another time.) The problem is that I married into the family and hadn’t heard these stories before, but the rest of the family grew up with them. After a few years I filled my head with all I could stand of ancestral anecdotes. Then another sibling married in and asked questions so the stories started again. And so it goes, and Grandma continued to tell the tales.
We may joke and roll our eyes but at some point in everyone’s life it is really worth taking a peek into your family’s past. I tried it, and guess what? It was fun! It’s family reunion and private investigation all rolled into one. But you provide your own watermelon and take it at your own pace.
It’s easy to start. Print out a simple family tree, also called a pedigree chart. Start with yourself and see how much you can fill in without asking anyone else. Then ask a relative for help – Mother, Grandmother, Aunt or Uncle. Or look at a family Bible or other such book. The first time I tried this it amazed me what I didn’t know. How could I not know my own grandmother’s maiden name? And dates, well I didn’t know any of those!
Most likely by the time you fill out a pedigree chart you will be curious about some aspect of your family. Where did they come from? Why is their name different? That person was adopted? Hm…that birth date is awfully close to the parents’ wedding date…. You just never know what you’re going to find!
As you may have heard, the Mormon Church is very excited about genealogy, sometimes called family history. We just love families! Many LDS meetinghouses include a family history center. They have computers, microfilm readers, books, and most important of all – knowledgeable staff to help guide your research. Check out this link for the family history center near you. The centers are a service to the community, free of charge. No proselytizing goes on in family history centers so there is no need to feel uncomfortable going there. (You can also find much information online at Family Search — a free database of millions of digitally indexed records. You can even help index records here.)
There is a bit of urgency to family history work. My husband’s energetic Grandma now has dementia. Somehow the fibers of her mind have let those stories she held so dear slip away. But because of her previous family history efforts the records of her family are secure for generations to come.