The pull of family history … family is more than names

What motivates people to do family history?
Family history is more than names – we are drawn to the stories of their lives. We dig their names and dates out of vital records or the census and we dig deeper into newspapers and family letters to find the stories of their lives.

When I was teaching a genealogy class for the Darien Historical Society (CT) back in the early 1970s I asked my class – why were they interested in their family history?

One elderly man said – My sister was the kindest person he ever knew. She never married. I knew that if I didn’t write our family history that no one would remember her. That always stuck with me.

In today’s Denver Post Tina Griego wrote:

“Usually it starts with a family story. Grandma was tracking the family and they ended up with a box full of her papers. Or they heard someone in the family fought in the Revolutionary War. Or ‘My ancestors came from Spain and settled in Mexico and I want to find that branch of the family.’ “
What is it, I ask her, that draws people to their family histories? What is it they hope to learn? Why does it matter?
As I ask, I am aware that these questions are as much professional as they are personal.

Tina Griego, columnist for the Denver Post writes about the pull of genealogy in today’s paper.

Click here to read her entire column.
Family History is more than Names. 14 April 2009. Denver Post.

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2 thoughts on “The pull of family history … family is more than names

  1. Tom,

    After reading your post and the article, I realized that my pull now, is that my parents three grandchildren may not have children of their own. Each are in their mid to late 30’s so, at this point in time, I need to continue to update my Family History for others.

    I have the names and some of the stories, but want to find the other stories of my Ancestors and their descendants.

    Thank you,


  2. The concept of family is at the very foundation of a civilized society. It is something that African Americans were substantially denied for centuries. Slavery severed family ties and disconnected us from our ancestors. It is a connection that I will do my best to achieve so that my children and grandchildren will not feel as rootless as I did when I first started searching.

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