Everyone has a different set of reasons for wanting to know about their family history. Some people are interested in specific ancestors, while others begin genealogical research projects out of general curiosity. The good news is that no matter why someone has decided to embark down the fascinating path toward learning about their ancestors, they still stand to benefit not just on practical but also on mental and emotional levels. Read on to find out how.
Strengthen Family Ties
Researching genealogy and creating unique family history books is a great project for relatives to embark on together. Not only will family members be able to share a fun experience but researching the past together can also open up the door to intergenerational sharing and connection. Learning about common ancestors can strengthen families’ connections to each other and could even wind up be leading to the discovery of long-lost relatives.
Deepen Personal Identity
Not everyone works on genealogy research with their families, and it can be just as satisfying to complete these kinds of projects alone. By tracing their family’s roots back through history, a person can deepen their sense of personal identity and belonging. While a person’s past is only part of who they are in the present, finding out where the family came from, discovering what individual ancestors achieved, and learning about the trials faced by lost relatives can be incredibly validating.
Create a Sense of Purpose
In earlier times, older people were the heads of families and often found themselves responsible for teaching children and passing on wisdom. These days, retirees often find themselves feeling cut off from society as they transition from work to retirement. Starting a family research project can reignite that sense of purpose and keep older family members engaged. Every family’s history is filled with minor mysteries to be solved and discoveries to be celebrated, so whether grandparents embark on genealogy projects alone or with younger family members, they’ll have plenty to do.
Meet Other People with Similar Interests
Researching genealogy is a popular hobby these days, so it should come as no surprise that the people who engage in it are offered lots of opportunities to share their passions not just with their families but also with new friends. People can find or create communities of interested people both in person and online, stimulating good conversations and forging social connections. Many family history researchers also find ways to broaden the scope of their projects by presenting talks at libraries or community centers, coming up with history lessons for local kids, or creating unique mementos for the next generations.
Gain Medical Knowledge
There are some cases were collecting family records and researching the past can lead to the discovery of valuable family medical information that could help surviving family members identify potential risks. Given how many disorders have a genetic component, knowing how the family’s ancestors lived, and sometimes how they died, can provide insight into a patients’ health, which doctors can take advantage of. Plus, knowing about strong risk factors can help to prepare people to face them.
Provide Proof of Ancestry
Some organizations require people to prove ancestral links to gain membership or certain benefits. Americans who want to apply for dual citizenship, for example, can only do so if they can prove their lineage, and Native Americans can only be enrolled as members of federally recognized tribes by providing genealogical information. Scholarships often function in similar ways, as do certain types of visas for specific countries.
Find Living Relatives
Not all researchers of family history are seeking a connection with the past. Some are more interested in enriching their lives in the present by finding living relatives. Examples abound of people who have believed themselves to be sole survivors of major disasters or tragedies, for example, who have then gone on to discover living relatives who want to reconnect, share stories, and forge new bonds.
Get to Know Different Cultures and Traditions
For those who aren’t familiar with their families’ cultural or religious backgrounds, genealogical research can offer an excellent way to expand horizons and learn about different traditions. Many modern people find that delving into family history, including ancestors’ cultures and traditions, helps them strengthen their own beliefs. Adopting an open and curious mindset when performing genealogical research can lead to a greater appreciation of different cultures and ways of life and could even lead to a trip abroad to explore the researcher’s roots.
Pass On Family Stories
There are many ways to tell family stories. From photo collections to historical interviews or even professionally written narratives, family stories take many forms. Even researching genealogy and then passing on the results directly can start conversations and create ways for families to commemorate their shared histories. In the past, families had to pass on stories about ancestors primarily through oral transmission, but now an entire genealogical history can be recorded and passed on to future generations.
Improve Emotional Well-Being
Children who are exposed to stories about their family histories tend to have a greater sense of emotional well-being. They feel more in control of their lives, have higher self-esteem, and typically function more successfully after hearing family stories. Beliefs about the success of ancestors can translate into a greater sense of self-worth in children who form a strong sense of “intergenerational self.” Even negative stories can play a positive role in encouraging overall well-being by fostering increased resilience in the face of hardship.
The Best Way to Get Started
The best way to get started creating a family history is to jump right in by writing down stories and collecting photographs from living relatives. Eventually, family researchers will reach a point where they feel like they’ve hit brick walls, though. At that point, it can help to reach out to a professional in the field who knows how to find more detailed information about ancestors’ lives or pick up the lost trail of a particular family member. The results will be worth the effort.