I stumbled across an article this week with the title “Why does family history matter?” and it has kind of stuck with me. I admit, there are not a lot of people my age doing genealogy work. At one point I even had a woman tell me “it is so nice to see someone of child-bearing age interested in family research!” It kind of took me aback at first, but then I realized most of my dealings were generally with people older than myself. I think that is changing, however. With Ancestry.com’s massive marketing campaigns, supplemented with their TV show, “Who Do You Think You Are?” and the ease of “point and click” genealogy hunting, more people of all ages are discovering genealogy.
I realize not everyone shares my passion for ancestor hunting. I often get frustrated when I come up with genealogical gems from my hubby’s side of the family and his response is “Hmm, that’s interesting.” So many times over the last ten years though I have heard other researchers say, “I really wish I had asked my Grandma (or Grandpa/Mom/Dad) more about the family while they were still alive.” All those wonderful memories, stories, challenges and dreams…just gone. Which I guess is why family history matters to me and why I have such a passion for what I do. I feel as if I am giving a voice to those that no longer have one. I help tell the story for those that can no longer tell their own. Family history is so much more than names and dates to me.
One of my favorite parts of research is discovering old family photos and being able to put a name to a face. I love seeing the old sepia toned black and whites. The ones where the women are wearing big hats with feathers and long, frilly dresses with up-swept hair and the men are always so serious in their three-piece suits.
The genealogists of tomorrow are going to have a difficult time putting names with faces if they don’t have the pictures to do so. The ease of digital photography unfortunately seems to have led to the virtual death of the printed picture. So many people I know don’t get prints made of their photographs anymore, they just “look at them on the computer.” This line of thinking just about brings me to tears. When the on-line photo repositories are long gone, how are grandchildren going to view pictures of their grandparents, their great-grandparents? I admit, since digital photography came along, I do not get my photos printed off as much as I used to. Instead of doing 20-40 pictures at a time, seems as if I’m getting 150-200 done at once. I think my record was 500 prints all in one order. And I am one of those people who write the names and dates on the backs of every photo, so I try not to wait that long anymore! I always write who is in the picture and when it was taken, just in case one day I have a great-grandchild who wants to know who is in that photo.
Who we were is so much a part of who we are. What is your story? What in your family’s past brought you to where you are now? Does family history matter to you?