For the second consecutive year, the U.S. Senate has passed a bill proclaiming October as Family History Month. This is a special time set aside to focus on our families, both living and dead.
“Essentially, we are all immigrants to this country,” said the sponsor of the bill Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, “Our ancestors came from different parts of the globe. By searching for our roots, we come closer together as a human family. Researching ancestry is a very important component of identity.”
Family History is a great way to bring a family closer together. Each person in a family has their own unique story to tell. I still remember asking my father about his mother, Julia Nolan, who died before I was born. I sat for many hours during my childhood listening to him tell her story. By sharing those memories, my father gave me a part of my grandmother. In turn, I pass those stories on to my children, so that the life of Julia Nolan, the immigrant from County Kerry, Ireland, will not be forgotten.
There are many ways to celebrate Family History Month. Sharing family stories, as I have described above, is a great way to begin. Ask your parents or grandparents to share stories of their childhood. Getting a few people together can help to stimulate old memories. Have a tape recorder on hand or a pencil and paper to take notes. Write them down so that they can be shared with the rest of the family.
Do you have boxes or drawers full of photographs? A great idea for Family History Month is to get the family together and organize, label and preserve the photographs. Make a plan for the project so that everyone can work together. This project could take a couple of sessions to complete depending on the amount of photographs. You could even combine story telling with the photo preservation. It is great fun to pass the photographs around the table remembering and passing on what is known about those in the photos. This is a time that can be shared by the whole family, young and old.
If you want to get your child or grandchild interested in Family History, there is a Family History Web site for children. This site, http://www.genealogytoday.com/junior/pursuit/, has a variety of articles and projects for the younger family historian.
For younger children, family games or crafts can encourage an interest in the family’s history. Sit down with the child and draw a picture of the family, including grandparents, aunts and uncles. Or make a paper doll of each member of the family. As you draw or make the paper dolls, talk about the people and how they fit into the family.
There is a new game that I recently saw at the FGS Conference in Ontario, California that is fun for the whole family. It is called Linkum! and it is a product of idoneon.com. Pictures of your ancestors are put on cards. It can be used as a card game or memory game. It encourages an understanding of the basic family for younger children and can be a challenging game for adults who have to link three generations together to win. Ordering information can be found at http://www.idoneon.com.
Believe it or not, you can send a free e-card to someone, wishing them a Happy Family History Month. There are six different cards and they can be found at http://www.123greetings.com/events/family_history_month/ If you have only been thinking about starting your family history, this month would be a good time to jump right in and get going. There are free classes to help you get started, which are given once a month at the Denver Public Library. See details at the end of this article. There are also Internet classes on the web. Check Cyndi’sList at http://www.cydnislist.com, for specific titles and locations.
If you have started your Family History search, celebrate the month by taking a class that can help you advance your research. There are intermediate classes given once a month at the Denver Public Library as well as other classes given by local genealogy societies.
So, take a few moments this month and celebrate Family History Month. Whatever you choose to do, share it with your family and have fun!