Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Why I do genealogy

I was recently asked by a college student why I am involved in Family History. Here is what I said, or what I should have said. Thanks to Holly Hansen for helping me refine my ideas in a later conversation.

1)It gives me a sense of belonging in life. When I see pictures of my ancestors or learn about their lives, I know that these people worked and sacrificed so that I can be where I am today.

2) It gives me a sense of purpose and a feeling that I can do it. When I was in college, I went through some trying circumstances that about put me under. During that time, I was given a short history that my Great-grandmother had written about her life. I found out that she had gone through much the same circumstances at about that time in her life. I knew that if she had made it through, I could. Recently, I learned of some of the circumstances she went through in starting her businesses. Again, it inspired me that I could do what I needed to with this business. She died a multi-millionaire. :-) None of the money trickled down much, but I have her dna. And really, some days, that is all I need.

3) Genealogy gives me a sense of perspective and wisdom. When you spend time looking at the whole span of life, everday crisis don't seem as important. I've written about this before, here. It gives me a sense of peace and contentment that I don't get anywhere else.

4) Genealogy heals. Everyone has good and bad in their family tree. When you understand what your great-great grandparents had to go through, or chose to go through, it is easier to see what they instilled in their children, and then what they instilled in their children. That can work both ways in self-esteem, world views, relationship issues, etc. I'm very blessed in alot of ways. But there are also some patterns that I want to stop with this generation. I can do that better knowing where they came from. Understanding promotes forgiveness. And change.

5) The biggest reason I do genealogy is for the spiritual nourishment it gives to my kids. The same as what I get above but for them. Once I had kids, everything was for them. I want to do anything to make sure they are happy and content and centered. And this is really the most important aspect of why I'm interested in my family's history. I want to inspire my descendants. The other day, my son, who hates writing, didn't want to finish his book report. I assured him that he had it in him, that he came from a long line of prolific writers, and college professors. Poor kid. He didn't have a chance. But he did finish it right up. I don't know if my comments helped get him going, but I think they did. Hopefully my efforts in teaching them about their family's history will envelope them in love and a feeling that they are strong and able to do anything they want to.


WAGS.Seminar.Director said...

What a very interesting post. Refreshing and not as typical of reasons as I have heard before.

Your post was written four years ago. Would you change or expand your thoughts today? Would you add anything new?

Thank you for writting the post.

Roger Mount
Whittier Area Genealogical Society
WAGS Seminar Director

Janet Hovorka said...

Roger, I have developed these ideas more, they are developing constantly. You can find some more of those ideas on post such as, and under the headings genealinspired and why genealogy. You are also welcome to send me an email at janet(at) and I'd be happy to send you some of my other recent writings on the subject.
Thanks for reading.