Family history can be complicated. For some, it’s a source of pride, while for others, it’s shameful and embarrassing. But the thing about history is that you can always learn from it. Whether your ancestors left a positive or harmful legacy, knowing about their actions can teach you to be a better person. In fact, CNN even argues that it’s a good teachable moment for kids. If you’re interested in uncovering your family’s past, here are three ways to do it:
Visit the Cemetery
Graveyards and tombstones can tell you a lot about a person. You just have to know how to look. For example, the place where they have been laid to rest can reveal their religion, profession, or even their cause of death. Some cemeteries are found on church grounds or reserved for military veterans. Some graveyards have databases where you can get more information about your relatives. You might find out your great-grandparents’ full names and lead you to other relatives. You can also learn about people who have not been included in your family tree. Expert Loren Rhoads has likened cemeteries to open-air museums due to their educational value.
You can learn a lot about your family history without using ancestry tests. Start by going through your family photos. Then, find and preserve objects that have been passed down to several generations. From there, you could discover physical traits, heritage and culture. A tangible reminder of the past can help you understand the importance of upholding traditions. It can also inspire you to make new ones.
For example, actor Ben Affleck tried to hide that he had a slave-owning ancestor from a historical program because he was embarrassed. While it’s understandable, it also paints an inaccurate picture. Slavery, along with other tragic events, is a part of American history. The only way to move forward is to acknowledge it, not censor it. When studying history, it’s crucial to understand that it’s not about acknowledging just the positive parts. It’s likely that there are ugly portions, too. While you can’t correct the past, you can improve the future by creating your own path.
When visiting your grandparents or having a gathering, make sure to ask for stories. They can impart important information that’s not found on any document. You According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the majority of people have a family history of at least one chronic disease. If you have a family member who has heart failure or diabetes, you are more likely to develop the same condition. The earlier you know about it, the better it is for you because you can then make adjustments to your lifestyle. Afterward, you can consult your doctor for preventive screenings and checkups.
While you can’t change the past, you can change the future. You can learn from their mistakes and their bravery. It’s up to you to improve on your family’s legacy, whether your ancestors were remembered as positive figures or not.