As I'm preparing for this weekend's holiday, I'm finding myself very thankful for the great treasure trove my family has left me in the form of oral histories. Thanks to the insistence of one family member, I knew as a first grader that I was a Mayflower descendant - and precisely from which passenger I descended. That same family member soon added that I was also the descendant of a Revolutionary War soldier. Another family member gave me the story of their immigrant heritage in great detail. These often repeated stories were not acknowledged as they should have been when I was a child, but I am now incredibly glad of the gift. I'm also glad for the lesson those relatives taught me: pass on your family stories.
From those few details, I have been introduced to ancestors with tremendous histories. Remember that ship captain I mentioned in an earlier blog post? He was mentioned in a family legend. It has taken me years to locate him and to fill in the blanks in his stories. However, finding his ship's information gifted me with great insight into an ancestor who died in his early 30s. I have a dozen more stories like him.
I've also been taught some good lessons about genealogy. Those same relatives encouraged me to ask questions about their families. As a result, I had partially completed trees for several families as a child. They also reminded me to write things down. In a few cases, my notes stood as the only record of an ancestor's heritage. No one had done any other work. In short - ask, question, and record.
So why do I even bring this up? Just to remind you that the only gifts of the holiday don't need to be wrapped. Tell your family about their history. Force your youngest relatives to listen to those same boring old stories. Ask the older relatives every question you can think of. Don't be among those who wish they had asked when... Both generations will thank you for it.