An entire month to celebrate genealogy? Sign me up!
Even Congress understands the importance of family history:
On June 27, 2003 a resolution introduced by Senator Orrin Hatch was agreed to in the Senate without amendment and with a preamble by unanimous consent. (consideration: CR S8846-8847; text as passed Senate: CR S8846-8847).
We should all embrace Family History Month and here’s why:
Family History Month comes at the right time of year
Cooler weather brings thoughts of indoor sports; activities we can enjoy without freezing off our bottoms. Indoor genealogy tasks might include
- spending quality time at a nearby Family History Center
- getting to know the reference librarian at the public library
- exploring Ancestry, FamilySearch, Newspapers and more
- building a timeline for each ancestor
- writing letters to prospective cousins
- requesting records from county or state repositories
- reading local history books from our ancestors’ home towns
- digitizing our paper files
- making a coloring book to inspire aspiring genealogists
- creating an inexpensive family history book
October is my favorite month for all the reasons above and many more. I’m most inspired to climb my family tree in the fall and winter so for me, October really kicks off the season.
Family History Month is an annual touchstone
This is the 13th celebration of Congress’s resolution. How far have we advanced in our research during that time? How many ancestors have been discovered, what stories have been uncovered, which resources have been explored?
Family History Month 2016 provides an incentive to update our growing family trees, share our ancestors with others, and back up our precious computer files. It’s also a wonderful time to set annual genealogy goals – how much can we accomplish between now and October 2017?
This year I’m narrowing my focus to my paternal grandfather’s ancestors. I plan to make significant progress on the eight surnames currently on his pedigree chart.
Family History Month is commercialized
but in a good way! The ancestry-related increase in TV commercials and web site ads may inspire an as-yet-unknown cousin to start searching for his and her ancestors. With any luck he or she might find my ancestors in the same tree!
Cousins I hope to find include those researching the surnames Clarke, Gury, Littrell, Mueller, Schmitt, Shank, Shartzer and Wyder. And maybe, just maybe, one of those new cousins can name the people in this picture and in this one.
Family History Month precedes traditional family gathering time
The holidays are around the corner; with all the makings for extended-family get-togethers. This is our opportunity to interview relatives, get the kids interested in their ancestors, ask for help identifying faces in old photos, and take new family group pictures – especially those of multiple generations.
Ask questions of everyone at family gatherings and record them if you can. A simple question can be the memory prompt for some wonderful stories.
During one such interview with my late mother-in-law, I asked her to tell me about the first car her family owned. “My parents never had a car”, she said. Imagine our surprise when she described riding in a horse-drawn wagon in rural Minnesota during the 1920’s and 30’s!
Family History Month gives us holiday lead time
We have just enough time to creatively incorporate family history into gifts for the descendants of our ancestors. Framed family trees, restored photographs, or family history photo books are some examples that come to mind. Heads-up kids and grandkids – spoiler alert! There’s a good chance ancestor calendars are going to make an appearance under this year’s Christmas tree.
I encourage everyone to read the original Family History Month resolution introduced by Senator Hatch. It may inspire your celebration of this important time of year.