If you’ve ever heard the claim that genealogy is one of the most popular hobbies of all time, be aware that this fun fact isn’t entirely true. But even if this level of interest isn’t as high as it’s promoted to be, it shouldn’t discourage residents of Maquoketa and elsewhere from enjoying the fun of researching family history, especially those currently receiving palliative care.
The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care encourages all of their patients to consider performing more family research, especially if it’s an activity that interests them.
Many feel that genealogy is a fun way to combine several pursuits that people love: it requires research and investigating that anyone can learn how to do; it’s an opportunity to learn exciting new stories about your recent or distant ancestors, and there’s the occasional possibility of discovering new family members.
It’s also much easier than it used to be: a few decades ago, people interested in their past had to physically travel to different libraries or courthouses to dig through piles of old paper to find a specific document or contact possible relatives out of the blue to discuss if they are truly linked.
Now, many municipalities have digitized their archives and other collections, making searches simpler and faster. There are also genealogical clubs in many communities, and some organizations or religions offer additional resource and guidance to assist people’s searches. It’s easy to reach out to people via email as well.
In some cases, you can even get a general guide to your ethnic history by submitting a DNA sample (saliva) which can also indicate others who fit a similar genetic profile.
We always enjoy hearing stories from our patients about the fun connections they’ve uncovered, or the reasons why they’re trying to find out more: maybe a parent never shared much, or perhaps someone was adopted and may not know much of their genetic history. Maybe they’ve connected with another family member who has already done substantial research or knows some of the good stories, so everyone can combine efforts and compare notes. Maybe they’ve been estranged from some family members for years, but things are beginning to thaw or others are filling in some of the gaps.
Beyond tracing the family’s roots back through multiple generations, there are easy things anyone can do today, including sharing their own memories.
Even if you may not know a whole lot about your extended family, you can still provide a useful service for future generations by telling details about you and your life. Whether you write down details or share recorded information, your words and thoughts can be treasured long after you’re gone.
Your grandchildren, great-grandchildren or various relations may enjoy your information and may even preserve it for their family members or other archives like a museum. It can be a snapshot of what life was like in your time. It might even help future genealogical specialists or historians – sometimes personal details provide much more depth and insight than basic facts, figures, and dates.
Although it’s easy to tell someone to just start writing and stop when all memories are shared, not everyone works this way. This strategy more likely can result in someone sitting at a table looking at a blank page, or getting too wrapped in the small stuff, like unexciting childhood memories, so coming up with newer memories may take awhile.
There’s also a tendency to avoid the writing part simply because of time: people may not want to share their entire life story while it’s still going on, and having the thought that “writing down everything I’ve done” means that my life is over. While those receiving hospice care may truly have only a certain amount of time remaining, others may feel that they can put off sharing these memories. Or, if they do have limited time, they may want to spend it with friends and family instead of writing down their whole life.
So it makes sense to look for other ways to share your life story.
- Declare a story-telling night. While it’s easy to say “I’ll get around to it,” the only way to get things done might be to declare ‘story night’ and invite people over. The supportive audience may enjoy having this time hearing tales from the past, even if they’ve heard them before. It could be a treasured moment for someone with little time left and for their family.
- Forget about the recorder. Assign someone to record, whether it’s video or audio. But then try to forget about it when you begin your storytelling. This will help you be less self-conscious of how you look or sound on camera. This person can also have the role of sharing your words later such as a CD or video file. Just start speaking naturally.
- Encourage pointers/prompts. Your audience may help naturally, but invite them to ask you to share their favorite or your favorite stories. If you’ve lived a good full life, it’s hard to know where to begin when it’s time to start sharing.
- Invite others to share too. Even if it’s ‘your’ night, encourage others to tell their stories on future nights. This could turn into a valuable multi-generational tradition.