You Mean My Family History Isn’t Done?

I have shared my passion for family history work with various people throughout my life. Sure it’s a young life, but I have shared it for nearly half of it. As I have done so, I keep hearing a comment that bugs me to absolutely no end.

“My family history is all done.”

Now, I’ll admit that most people who say this happens to belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When they say this, they’re basically saying, there is no one new to find to take to the temple. The pedigree chart and family group sheets are all completed back to the 1600s. So the prevailing thought is that the work is done. There is no one new to find. So, the work is done.

Just because the chart is complete, doesn’t mean family history is done.

I want to ask: Are you sure your work is finished?

  • Do you have a book that tells about the toils and trials your great-grandmother faced raising 13 children during the 1920s?
  • Do you have an account of an ancestor’s effort during any war? Do you know what the women did during the Civil War or World War II, or the Persian Gulf wars?
  • Do you have a collection of the stories that are always told at family reunions?
  • Do you a tangible format that shares the memories you have of the smell of your aunt’s home and the wonderful cook she was?
  • Is your life, to date, in a format that your children or grandchildren can pick up and read as easily as their favorite picture book or young adult novel?
  • Does your family history demonstrate the history of the area and what your progenitors were doing during major and minor events in the world/state/county?
  • If your ancestor was walking down the street, would you know them? Could you have a conversation with them? Can your children?

Everyone is unique. Their perspective is valuable. Each person in a family can play a part in the story of their family. Good. Bad. Triumph. Defeat. Joy. Heartache. And everyone’s contribution to the work of family history is vital to the richness of heritage.

At RootsTech 2013, the overriding theme was Find, Organize, Preserve, and Share. Additionally, recording the stories of the family was repeated again and again.

Here is what I want to quiz people on who tell me that ‘the work has been done’. What are you good at? What are your talents?

  • Are you a storyteller? Can you tell ‘the stories’ in a passionate way and record your delivery to be used as a sound recording or added to a video presentation about your heritage?
  • Are you a visual/graphic artist? Can you create something that will display your ancestors and their lives in a beautiful way be it a quilt, scrapbook, wall art, or painting?
  • Are you an interviewer? Can you ask the questions of living relatives and record the answers?
  • Are you a videographer? Can you make video clips about the lives of your ancestors and incorporate them into the narrative of your family?
  • Are you a researcher? Do you feel at home amongst microfilm and old books wearing white gloves? Can you find the information and share with someone above so they can turn it into a tangible format?
  • Are you a photographer? Can you photograph the family farms/houses and various artifacts that will trigger memories for an interviewee or can be used in visual or written productions?
  • Are you a writer? Can you make a script for the storyteller or videographer? Can you assemble the research and transform it into a written narrative? Can you develop more questions for the researcher to follow-up on?
  • Do you have the memories and stories that you must impart to anyone who will listen? Can you record your voice sharing these treasures?
  • Are you the keeper of the stuff? Can you open up your home to those with other talents to see, touch, and capture the stuff of the family?
  • Are you a computer geek who can take all the stuff and transform it into a digital warehouse that can be accessible by anyone interested in your family line yet protect the identity and privacy of the living? Can your upgrade outdated media into a modern usable form?
  • Are you really good with language and can edit the manuscripts and scrapbook creations?
  • Are you good with old languages? Can you translate some of the old documents or recordings?

I’m sure others can think of talents that can play a role in the finding, organizing, preserving, and sharing the
narrative of your family. Feel free to listen to them in the comment section.

My feeling is that until everyone in your family is as well known to your family members at the current celebrity of the day, then your family history is not done. And if your personal life or that of your spouse, children, and grandchildren isn’t preserved for future generations… then your work is not done.

My challenge to all… use the skills you have to contribute to the work of family history for those relatives from the past and in the present so that the family members in the future will know who they are.

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.

9 thoughts on “You Mean My Family History Isn’t Done?

  1. Great job in finding those babies. I bet the mothers are so grateful for your efforts. To loose a child is so painful. I have found a few myself. I agree, the things you will find is limitless.

  2. This was excellent! I have heard so many people state that theirs is all finished. Never! In the past couple of years, I have discovered 45 babies that we did no know about. Most died at birth or shortly afterward. I'll keep on digging…

  3. Great post! The names and dates are definitely important but it's the stories that bring it all to life. I especially like the point about knowing your ancestor if you saw them walking down the street. THAT's what makes family history really tick for me 🙂

  4. That's for the support. I often feel so alone when working on my tree. I'm the only one working on 4 lines for certain, and 12 lines with the most activity. It's a lot of weight to carry. I'm hoping to raise children who will know the value of their family history and help me as they get older. I wish to inspire all my friends to do a little something so that other researchers are not the only ones carrying the weight of their entire tree.

  5. I love this post Devon! The points you make are excellent. Family history work is never really "done." There's always more to do, whether that is researching those previously unavailable records, sharing the stories of our ancestors, etc.

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