Do you know much about your family history? If not, why would you need to know? You may be surprised to learn there are many benefits to knowing your family history.
You gain a sense of identity. Discovering your ancestors can help you learn and embrace your culture, traditions, and background. This in turn can give you a feeling of belonging.
You connect with others. Learning about your ancestors’ lives helps you connect with them, showing you what you may have in common with them. This is especially important if your ancestors immigrated from a different country than the one you grew up in.
You can pass on the knowledge to your children and future generations. Your children can also gain a sense of identity and belonging and embrace their cultures and traditions. They in turn can teach their children, and so on.
Below are three personal stories from Raconteur subjects that illustrate the importance of knowing your family history.
One of our life story subjects asked our researchers to investigate his grandparents' pasts so that he could expound upon their stories in the first chapter of his book—the one titled "Family History." We discovered that his paternal grandmother, who had lived with him when he was a child but had dementia, had grown up in an orphanage. Our subject had no idea and was shocked by this discovery.
Another of our subjects, Mrs. Sallie, had been born in South Africa but torn from her homeland as a child, brought to England, and sent off to boarding school until World War II put an end to her childhood. As a young woman, she fell in love with an American soldier. They married, and his new job landed them in New Orleans, Louisiana. A few years later, they welcomed two daughters, and eventually settled in New Iberia, Louisiana. There, Mrs. Sallie led a meaningful, happy life, but never felt quite at home. That all changed when, in her 90s, she began doing genealogical research. She made the shocking discovery that some of her ancestors had lived in Louisiana and that two of her great-great aunts were even buried in, of all places, New Iberia! In her life story book, she recounted her life's memories, search for belonging, and life-changing discovery.
One subject requested a detailed chapter on his family history in hopes that his children and grandchildren would be inspired by those who came before them. He wanted to specifically tell the tale of how his father courageously left behind everything he knew in Lebanon in hopes of achieving the American Dream in the U.S. That chapter illuminates his father's struggles and triumph. By the time our subject was born, his father had learned English and moved up from working as a peddler to owning his own truck line. Our subject credits his own success and that of his children to his father's sacrifice and can now rest assured that his father’s legacy will be known by future generations.
Are you ready to learn more about preserving your loved one's life story?