Why you should research your ancestors

I am posting this article because of the importance I feel about searching for your ancestors.  I have found several people, mostly young people, who don’t care about their roots.  It has no meaning to them.  This article gives many reasons to learn about your family.  It defines who you are.  I want to thank Mr. Witcher for his excellent enlightenment.


The Leap Year–Using That Extra Day

by Curt B. Witcher


I hope the extra day we had this month was put to good use discovering, recording, and sharing family histories. Never have we had so many records to explore at our fingertips, and so many examples of research strategies to employ depicted in periodicals, on webpages and on television programs. Genealogical society meetings and webinars are rich with ideas, and online classes and the FamilySearch wiki provide an abundance of guidance and possible new pathways to investigate.


The benefits of engaging in family history research are so significant. As has been stated numerous times in this ezine, the personal satisfaction of getting to know one’s ancestors, with all their warts and wrinkles, challenges and triumphs, is enlightening and inspiring. Family history is a great way–arguably the best way–to learn history. It truly makes history come alive and take on a relevance unmatched by any other approach. In discovering the uniqueness of our individual ancestors, interestingly enough we also learn how similar we are. Like the variegated colored threads in a fine tapestry, the many threads of a family are wonderfully unique but together they make an amazing tapestry. So it is with our immediate families, extended families and community families.


The urgency to engage in family history research has never been greater. First, there is so much living memory that is in jeopardy as our family members age. I remain so convinced of our duty to take active steps to record, preserve and share that living memory. We all have heard too many “if only I had . . . “ stories. Add to that the sober truth that we cannot depend on civil or church records to be around for our children’s children to use. We at least need to document our lives and the lives of our parents and grandparents to ensure that our descendants have an opportunity to know us and those close to us.


Record groups that you and I have used for years to assist us in our research are increasingly at risk of being restricted, or completely closed, by bureaucrats, or simply lost by well-intentioned but uninformed record custodians who are simply “getting rid of all this old stuff ‘cause we’re out of room.” Yes, we should continue our efforts to engage government officials and record custodians about the importance of preserving and making accessible the records that document our rich history. That process is truly never ending and typically nets only modestly satisfactory results. One of the surest ways of seeing that documents and oral histories important to our genealogies are preserved is do the research, make the recordings, capture the images, and publish the data in some fashion. E-publishing opportunities abound. The Allen County Public Library’s Genealogy Center continues to welcome electronic publications to host on our website. Increasing numbers of information aggregators in the genealogy space are doing the same. History, our family history, is truly in our hands. What remains for those who come after us is increasingly our responsibility.


The RootsTech 2012 conference at the beginning of this month offered so many amazing learning and networking experiences. There was much talk about digital storage, with all its costs and implications for access. While sobering, it was still quite instructive to hear “between the spoken words” that very few governmental, educational, or organizational entities have a meaningful digital archiving plan, elements of which would include storage, retrieval, redundancy, and data recovery. This writer believes that only the FamilySearch engineers really “get it,” and are truly doing it. The point? Even in a digitized form, our family histories are our responsibility. Share the stories, share the work, share the copies.


If you need some help doing your research, or even getting motivated to do the research, there are some excellent seminar and conference activities coming up over the next three months. Read on in this ezine for Genealogy Center programs. The Indiana Genealogical Society <www.IndGenSoc.org> is meeting at the Allen County Public Library at the end of April (April 27-28); the Ohio Genealogical Society <www.OGS.org> is meeting in the Cleveland area before that (April 12-14); and the National Genealogical Society is meeting in Cincinnati in May (May 9-12). You’re bound to find many motivating presentations–encouraging you to advance your research as well as equipping you to publish (preserve and share!) your findings.