When many people think of family history, they think of Aunt Mabel. The image conjured up is that of someone who is a little eccentric whose idea of a good time is going to a cemetery to take rubbings of headstones or visiting a county courthouse to pour through county records.
While researching in genealogical records is part of the joy of family history, and while I will confess to pleasure in a trip to the cemetery, I want to take a moment to expand the view of family history.
The addition of photos and stories to FamilySearch has lately been giving me the joy of watching individuals as they discover family photos and stories about which they previously knew nothing. I have watched the faces of person after person who has found one of these photos or stories light up in delight. The power of a shared tree and adding photos to this experience has never been clearer to me.
The opening of RootsTech this year focused on stories. A world famous storyteller took stage and shared the power of stories in our lives. The CEO of FamilySearch shared a powerful story of his father in World War II. He also asked us the question, “What will our great great grandchildren wish we would have done?”
These experiences with photos and stories and the question about what we should leave behind are inseparably connected in my mind.
I have a set of books of remembrance from my grandmother that are among my most valuable possessions. They have photos and stories that she preserved. My only wish is that I had this same information from her parents and her parents’ parents.
Think about the impact on the generations after us we can have if we take a moment to add some of our family photos and stories on FamilySearch. This last week I shared a small thought about things my father taught me that have changed my life in the photos section of FamilySearch. I then shared it on Facebook. Some of my family members commented that they shared the same memories. These thoughts are now preserved for those who follow behind. The lessons can bless the lives of my grand children as much as they have blessed me. I have begun steadily sharing many of my family photos on FamilySearch. One of the reasons I am so happy that FamilySearch added photos is that I can have confidence that they will be preserved and available for generations to come. I am fairly sure that Flickr and Picasa, and other photo sharing websites will not be around in a hundred years. It is likely that Ancestry.com will not be around in a hundred years. Few companies last that long. FamilySearch has already been around more than a hundred years. I am confident that they will still be around in another few hundred years.
If you have the feeling that you should be involved in family history, but don’t have the time to learn all that is necessary to do effective research, you can still do family history. Take a little time each week to share the stories that you know about your family. Take a few minutes to share your photos. If you simply take a few minutes to do these things, you too can say, “Look MA, I’m doing family history!”