Each generation is a link to the history before it. Often, when you look at the date of a specific event in history, a few hundred years can make it seem very distant, but when you consider it by counting generations, the time gap is greatly diminished. History lovers are naturally drawn to family history, but there are many reasons everyone should know this information for themselves.
This is probably the most significant reason to learn family history. Many medical conditions are based on heredity. There are certain illnesses that are associated with particular ethnic groups. Many people are surprised to find they carry genes from a variety of ethnicities. This can cause a predisposition in some people towards certain medical problems. Researching death certificates can be a valuable resource for learning of possible genetic concerns. Although medical practices and diagnosis have advanced from generations before, there are still clues in a “cause for death” that can be a vital resource to your health.
Community and Cultural Understanding
When starting research, some people can be overwhelmed by the scope of an entire lineage. It may be easier to start within your community. Once you have filled in your family tree using help from your current generation’s memory, look at the relationships they may have had to other people and families in the community. You might discover certain families share history as neighbors, childhood friends, co-workers, etc. Families in the community may be linked by marriages in past generations. These relationships shape families and the culture of a community. It may give you a better understanding of certain practices, customs, festivals, laws, street names, etc. that exist today.
It is easy to keep your thoughts on the issues and challenges of today, but you might be surprised to find that the key to solving today’s problems may lie in the past. It could be that something as simple as learning about the hardships your great grandparents faced in turn gives you perspective on your own hardships and how to overcome them. Learning history can also keep you from repeating the mistakes of a previous generation. You might discover a quote or a journal entry that is inspirational for what you are struggling with today. You cannot know what the future holds, but learning the past can be an excellent guide.
This is the age of information at your fingertips. Take advantage of the resources now available to learn your family’s history. It may help you live a healthier life! Start local and branch out from there. Take time to learn from the lives gone before you. One thing is certain in family research; you never know where it will lead!