December Genealogy Blog Party: The Gift of Family History

The theme for Elizabeth O’Neal’s December Genealogy Blog Party is quite appropriate – the Gift of Family History.

Family History is a gift that has been giving to me for 41 years. In that time, I’ve come to appreciate more and more the gifts that my ancestors have passed down to me.

First, I am the person I am because of each and every one of them. Of course, DNA matters, but what is more important is that I’ve come to appreciate all the social and cultural traditions passed down through the generations that have influenced my life today.

I can identify simplistic preferences in myself that, without a doubt, originated long ago with my Puritan ancestors, but I can just as easily point to my Rusyn ancestors as the source of my enjoyment of those rich traditions. These are all intangible gifts – not seen, but learned.

I am also very thankful for the physical gifts – sentimentally invaluable – that my more recent family members cared for and passed on. I am the current caretaker of written family biographies, china belonging to my great grandmother, my grandmother’s prized watch and hundreds of family photos. My great great grandmother’s rocking chair is probably my favorite, aside from the photos, as six generations of my family have sat in that chair.

The gift of family history will continue when the time comes for me to pass these treasures on to the younger generation.

However, firmly rooted in my mind is the Biblical saying “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” I am fortunate to be the recipient of so much family history, but I give back to the genealogy community, too.

If you would also like to give something back – talents, time or financial support, here are some suggestions:

  1. Join your local genealogical society and contribute to its health. While I’ve served as an officer and/or committee member in past years, today I contribute in other ways. I’ve been a program presenter and, when the society newsletter editor asks for contributions, I write articles. Ask what you can do to help out, even from home during the pandemic!
  2. Many researchers use FamilySearch, but only use the “Search Records” box and enter a person’s name. There are many record sets on FamilySearch that need to be indexed. Did you know that you can choose the images in a record set (from a list of locations and choices) that you want to index? Start with a small number of images that might take an hour to complete. If you like it and want to continue, you can choose another record set on which to work. If you are bilingual, your expertise will be appreciated at FamilySearch, as there are records from all over the world that need to be indexed. Don’t worry about struggling with a handwriting sample, as your project will be reviewed.
  3. Join a genealogy group on Facebook and offer to help other genealogists. It might involve look ups, a visit to a cemetery or giving research tips.
  4. It breaks my heart to see vintage photos for sale online when I can find living descendants of the person/people in the picture. It is quite easy to find living family members and I love mailing off the photos with a short note about how I found them and how they are related to the person in the photograph. One message I received from a gentleman (the photo was of his great grandfather), who said his two sons are now avidly researching the family history. Their interest was sparked by seeing their 2X great grandfather. Imagine all the photos that would be back with family members if all of us bought just one photo and returned it. Most of the pictures are well under $10, so it isn’t a big financial investment.
  5. Don’t have the time, but would prefer a financial donation? Consider making a donation to a group like Reclaim the Records. Their goal: We’re Reclaim The Records, a new not-for-profit activist group of genealogists, historians, researchers, and open government advocates. We identify important genealogical records sets that ought to be in the public domain but which are being wrongly restricted by government archives, libraries, and agencies. We file Freedom of Information and Open Data requests to get that public data released back to the public. And if the government doesn’t comply, we take them to court.

The Gift of Family History is truly one that gives again and again and again! How do you give back to the genealogy community?

Happy Holidays to Everyone!


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