If Family History Isn’t Fun, You’re Doing It Wrong

Family History Should Be Fun

Why on earth would people do family history if it wasn’t fun?

For years I have fought with folks who take the fun out of genealogy. Finally, I want to push back online. If family history isn’t fun, you’re doing it wrong.

Family History is a huge tent of activities that work together to support a greater whole. It’s not a forced activity, it’s a hobby, past-time or passion project.

Think of it this way, family history is about YOUR FAMILY’S STORY! What things can you do to capture and preserve their story:

  • Record the stories about the individual family members who are still living
  • Record the stories about those who have gone before who live in the memory of those who remain
  • Flip through family photographs and learn about the individuals staring back from the pictures
  • Digitize photos and documents so others can have copies
  • Restore damaged photographs
  • Find documents that record relationships and existence.
  • Digitize records at archives
  • Photograph gravestones
  • Edit interviews for clarity and improved storytelling
  • Create scrapbooks
  • Write story-based family histories

Believe it or not, I can go on and on and on with the tasks associated with family history. Considering this list, and any additional ideas that it triggers for you, what items are fun for you? Which items do you enjoy, even if the work takes effort?

DON’T DO WHAT’S NOT FUN

Andy thinks writing citations, which remind him of being in High School English Class, suck the fun out of genealogy. He HATED High School English. In fact, he wrote a book called How to Fail English With Style He’s not opposed to having sources, which is why he loves attaching records on FamilySearch and Ancestry to his trees. They do all the tedious work for him.

I don’t like logic puzzles which is why I don’t like solving DNA mysteries. If I have a DNA question, I give it to Andy.

Compare genealogy to sewing. There are so many projects that you could do that involve sewing. You could quilt, make doll clothes, design patterns, or add beading to formal gowns. No one does everything. People who pursue sewing as a hobby, rarely do anything they don’t like doing.

Just because something is hard to do doesn’t mean that it’s not enjoyable. You may not have the skills or the desire to quilt, which can be challenging. That doesn’t mean other people don’t enjoy the process.

So why suggest someone do all the parts of genealogy that are hard, when you wouldn’t expct that in any other hobby?

The great thing about family history is
that you can do what YOU think is fun.

Don’t let anyone else tell you different.

What usually happens when someone says, “family history is hard work and tedious, it’s not fun, but it’s rewarding?”

The vast majority of people I know find something else to do very quickly, no matter how many guilt-trip (er, motivational) talks they hear.

If you will find the one part of family history you like, the one thing you have time for right now, the one thing you’re willing to do (even when it gets hard), because it’s fun, you’ll contribute to your family’s legacy rather than leave everything to be done by a handful of people.

Family history is not the most popular hobby. It’s not even second. It is not even in the top 100. Why? Because it has been pushed as too narrow a pursuit and too challenging to tackle.

What would happen if we all begin to reimagine family history into a series of tasks that can be completed by a host of people to create a greater whole?

I think many more people will realize that family history is fun and not relegated to those who love laborious research or citation creation that is similar to a High School essay on steroids.

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.

4 thoughts on “If Family History Isn’t Fun, You’re Doing It Wrong

  1. Bravo! I think many of us probably only do the bits we enjoy most. It is definitely a hobby for me and just like sewing sometimes I go all out and surprise myself with effort and other times I make do with the minimum effort required. I feel no need to go back 6 or 10 generations and am now enjoying collating some stories about recent folks. This year I’ll get back to posting some of those stories online.

  2. I am passionate about every aspect of this crazy hobby. I started by making hand drawn family tree, 3 generations. Then the internet came along. I have had adventures with my husband “looking for dead people”. I have learned so many new skills through the process. Twenty plus years later I am in the 1600’s and have my application in for the Mayflower Society. I am now a member of Daughteds of the American Revolution, Daughters of Union Veterans. Who knew from my little hand drawn family tree knowing only 3 generatiins.

    Now I feel compelled to write the stories. Another facit if this hobby. I have learned PSE and digital scrapping and writting a family history book. I lost 6 hours yesterday because if a match on 23 and Me which took me in yet another direction.

    This “Hobby” is anything but boring. It’s addictive ❤️❤️❤️

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