In the month since launching this site I have had made some gratifying contacts and been able to share just a small fraction of the great family history we have. It is a beginning.
But it is really just part of a larger journey that I began in earnest about three years ago that I believe has changed my life. I will tell you about that journey later. If you are here and reading this now I would rather share the five truths about family history I have come to embrace as part of that journey — truths that have saved my life.
I am hoping that if you read this and see in part just what an awesome thing our family history is that you will begin to take the steps in your own life that will bring about the same kind of change I have experienced.
Lest you think this is all for the old folks let me add this disclaimer: I am a man of constant sorrow when it comes to family history. I have had grandparents work with me, uncles and aunts who have prodded me, parents who have invested in me — and I put it all off.
I was too busy.
I would get to it later.
Besides, much of my family history was “done”.
Don’t be like me, kids. If you invest in this now it WILL save your life.
Here are five earth shattering truths about family history that you need to know:
1. Family History isn’t about THEM
Growing up in the Church we are told we can be “saviors on Mount Zion” by doing our family history. And that is true. But that lends to the concept that family history is merely a service we render to THEM. But I tell you it is so, so much more than that. Family history is like missionary work. When you lose your life you find it.
Family history is about YOU.
When you invest in it you learn the details of what makes up you. It enlightens you. It inspires you. It causes you to value yourself in a whole new light. You recognize that you are part of something greater than you ever knew existed.
2. Nobody else can do your family history
No doubt there are others out there who have worked on your lines or shared with you like we do here about your family history. That might be great information and it might help you in some ways but that is not “doing” your family history.
Your family history is a lot like scripture. You can buy those scriptures in the bookstore but owning them does not give you a witness of what is in those pages.
Family history, like scripture, needs to be turned page by page. It needs to reach you as you read it and get to know it. You cannot simply just read the charts put together by others. You have to build them yourself and go down the road that only questioning and discovery can bring to your mind and spirit.
Doing so will change you.
3. You DO have the time to do your family history
Recognize that every time you say this you are merely making a choice.
You have the same 24 hours in a day as everyone else. What you are really saying is that you will not remove something else in your life. What you are really saying is that it is not important compared to anything else you’re doing.
This is my single biggest regret. I did this. And I lost a lot more than time.
I lost inspiration. I lost revelation. I lost connection. I lost vital energy that contributes to the anchoring of eternal perspective in my life. I lost balance. I lost love.
Stop being a loser.
4. Grandma is the quarterback
When you you think of your grandmother what is your immediate reaction?
When I contemplate my journey and see where my own family history is heading one thing becomes abundantly clear: Grandma is the quarterback.
If you have not yet even started your family history, go to Grandma.
She does not even need to be alive. Go to her grave, look at her pictures, read her stories, or just remember a good time with her. If she died before you were born, then make it a point to learn everything you can about her by engaging with those who DID know her. Whether here or passed on, Grandma will lead you.
Why? Think of how she makes you feel.
Then process this: there are dozens — no, hundreds — no, thousands — of other Grandmas out there waiting for you.
Family history is not about the mechanics of names, dates and places. It is an emotional and intensely personal journey.
Begin with Grandma. If you’re lucky you might even get the bonus of some cookies.
5. The better you know the memories you have the better the memories you will make
Stop thinking of family history as a task or a chore. And by all means, lose the thoughts of it being an obligation.
Think instead of family history has medicine — a remedy for what ails you. (We will be spending some time on the studies of psychology and the affects of family history on children. It’s fascinating stuff, especially if you suffer from anxiety or depression. It even expands into medical issues of cancer and diseases. Fascinating stuff).
Like it or not your daily actions are writing family history for someone a hundred years from now. I’m sure our ancestors never imagined their images being shared on the Internet or their stories being told in video. I am positive they never saw their history as being life changing or inspiring. I’m certain they never considered their choices were affecting US.
Someday someone is going to find you much easier than you can find your ancestors. Your school records, medical histories, drivers license data, credit information, Internet surfing habits, and even video captures of you at the grocery store will ALL become sources for family history research in the future.
Family history has caused me to realize that future generations are going to see me far better than I can ever see those from the past. What am I sharing with them?
Lessons are taught, ideas are formed, and influence is felt from every life. Every family has heroes and scoundrels. We learn from them all. They are ALL inspiring. How will you inspire others?
Our efforts here on WestoverFamilyHistory.org will center around the greatness within the ordinary lives of those who came before us. But it will also focus on us and our lives. It is our mission to reach out to our children and our cousins so we can see and share today the greatness of their lives. We want to make a record — a more complete accounting that is not just a chronology of our past.
So I will be asking you to share. I will be asking family of all ages to engage — how and where they are able — to the story of us. It will inspire you.
PS — That picture up at the top is me with my Grandma around 1970 or so, I’m guessing. Not only was my Grandma stylin’ the shades she got me started in family history. I miss her.