Thursday, April 28, 2011

Take time to preserve your family's history

All families have at least one relative interested in tracing their roots and each family member is expected to add to the family history so that it can be handed down from generation to generation. With computers now everywhere in the world, it has become easier to find out a great deal about your roots.

This interest may be because of our unsettled times; knowing where we came from gives us a solid foundation for our lives.

A cousin in New Mexico became known to us when she sent a letter with questions upon questions. She is a serious genealogist and is tracking down the family history, going back to church and legal records in Europe and then finally making a trip to Germany and Switzerland hoping to find out the things that didn’t seem to be recorded at various locations. She also made a trip to Salt Lake City where the Mormons have collected all kinds of information.

So, all local family members have collected all of the documents they have in their possession, had copies made of legal documents, scraps of paper that have been tucked into books or the family Bible, old pictures, birth and christening, confirmation, marriage certificates and obituaries and sent them off to her. Many of the items in our family are written in German. It is the “old” German and there are not many who can translate it. It is intriguing to look at these certificates and wonder what they might tell you. Perhaps my cousin will find out.

One day, she tells us, she hopes to have it all put together and have a booklet printed up in which it will tell us who our relation once was and where they come from. How lucky here in Canastota and Oneida there are families in the Italian heritage know where their families came from as they have only recently in the past 50 – 75 years came to the U.S. and know of their heritage. I am the third generation to have relatives who came to the U.S. in the 1910s or later.

Do you have clippings from papers about your family and other people who interest you hoping that one day you will put all of these into a scrap book? Scrapbooking has become a very popular pastime now and this would be a right time for you to start thinking of placing them into one receptacle where they would be kept and not get misplaced or lost. How many pictures, photographs have you without any identification on the backside? Even you perhaps don’t know who they are in the photo. As time goes by and people pass away there is no one to ask to identify the photos. At our house, we are guilty of not identifying the subject, the happening (birthday, anniversary, reunion, etc.) when the photo was taken. Identifying is important.

A great-aunt in our family kept such a scrapbook. In it are numerous newspaper clippings that tell you what the photograph that is also with the clipping tells the occasion. This is one way of cutting time in keeping a diary of such events that might have occurred and helping in the fact that you wouldn’t have to note it all. There are short cuts you can take if you only can think of noting them at the time and with computers it goes a lot faster.

If your son or daughter has a history assignment such as we had in our days in school, you had to write an assignment on “where your family came from.” You got home and told your mom or dad what was expected of you to write and the questions came flying at you. Some could answer them very easily, while others were vague and either had to consult with their parents, or you directed the child to interview your grandparents, if they were available. That is what is meant by keeping some form of family history along with other reasons such as the student who might be taking a course that will send them to Europe or some other foreign country where there might be relatives they could visit, if you knew where they were. Exchange students either Rotary Club sponsors here visiting us in our country and perhaps a guest in your home can be of interest if there is any connection with your family roots. Our high school children who have the opportunity to visit other countries as students sponsored by Rotary or Lions clubs also have a reason to know if they are visiting a country they might have had relatives leave to move to America.

The searching for your ancestors can be time consuming, interesting, and intriguing. It’s fun and exciting as you learn more and more about who you are.

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