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Thanksgiving and Christmas and the days in between are often full of family get-togethers, reunions, and holiday parties. They are fun occasions full of laughter, joy, and sometimes even a bit of stress. Our extended-family reunion was always a highlight of the year for me, until we moved too far away to attend. Now I enjoy emails and the occasional visit to aunts, uncles and cousins. If you are blessed to be getting together with older relatives, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc., I would like to suggest adding a new dimension to your gatherings this year.
Ask them to share their family history with you. If you’ve already got the family tree all written out, congratulations. I suspect that you are a smart family who is in the minority. Too many of us tend to focus on the here and now, especially at family gatherings when there is so much going on. We’re so busy asking how the past year went, but those are also excellent times to fill in the blanks of family relationships and histories further back in time. Why bother, you may ask? Medical reasons! You may all be doing fine and healthy, but maybe next year someone will develop an odd condition that needs figuring out. Or perhaps a new grandchild will appear down the road, with an unusual medical condition. Trust me, it’s happening a lot nowadays!
Knowing your family history going back several generations can tell you what country your family migrated from. Knowing the last names can help as well. In doing genetic research to narrow down diseases, that information can be vital. I am blessed to have a wonderful set of aunts on both sides of my family who took the time to make copies of old Bibles with births and deaths listed, along with writing down family trees. I even have little autobiographies written by several of my older relatives, three generations back. Even so, I wish now that I had talked to a couple of those relatives while they were still with us and gotten even more information.
Hindsight is always 100%, but you have the benefit of reading this article! So as you are visiting with all your relatives, passing plates of turkey and cranberries, smiling over cups of hot cocoa, take the time to say to Aunt Maude or Grandpa Hezekiah, “Tell me about our family. How far back can you remember of your parents, grandparents, cousins, etc.” While you’re at it, I would ask them what life was like when they were growing up. Reading the autobiographies of my family recently was definitely fascinating! Ask, also, if they know of any illnesses, diseases, etc. that any family member had. This might be a bit more difficult to acquire as some older adults may consider that too personal. Most enjoy sharing what they know, however, and overall, I suspect that your older relatives will thoroughly enjoy sharing this information with you. This might even be the best and most interesting get-together in years.
If you don’t do it at the party, make sure when you get home, to write all the information down. It’s amazing how quickly we can forget. Save this information, along with other pertinent relationships as you learn of them. Type them up and distribute a copy to each of your children and other relatives it impacts. Make sure to have a computer copy and a printed out copy. A dear friend of mine worked on a family history for me years ago as a gift, but never completed it. Much of her work was in her older computer, but technology has marched along and it is now inaccessible. Sometimes the old-fashioned ways of paper and ink are best.
Have a wonderful time at all those family reunions, enjoying each others company and learning more about yourselves and your families, for posterities sake. If you have any other ideas or suggestions on this, please leave a comment below or send an email to Kaye@SandwichINK.com . We would LOVE to hear from you!!!